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JOHN FORSTER 

by One of his Friends 




THE LATE MB. JOHN FORSTER. 




From a sketch by The Logan Stone in Cornwall, with 

J ' John Forster seated on the top. 

From "Charles Dickens and his Friends," by W. Teignmouth .^hore. (Cassell.) 



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JOHN FORSTER 















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JOHN 
FORSTER 



BY 



ONE OF HIS FRIENDS 




LONDON 

CHAPMAN & HALL Ltd. 

1903 



PR 



LIBRA 
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
SANTA BARBARA 



JOHN FORSTER. 

A MAN OF LETTERS OF THE OLD SCHOOL. 

One of the most robust, striking, and many-sided 
characters of his time was John Forster, a rough, 
uncompromising personage, who, from small and 
obscure beginnings, shouldered his way to the front 
until he came to be looked on by all as guide, 
friend and arbiter. From a struggling newspaperman 
he emerged into handsome chambers in Lincoln's 
Inn Fields, from thence to a snug house in Montague 
Square, ending in a handsome stone mansion which 
he built for himself at Palace Gate, Kensington, with 
its beautiful library-room at the back, and every 
luxury of " lettered ease." 

If anyone desired to know what Dr. Johnson was 
like, he could have found him in Forster. There 
was the same social intolerance ; the same " disper- 
sion of humbug " ; the same loud voice, attuned to a 
mellifluous softness on occasion, especially with ladies 
or persons of rank ; the love of " talk " in which he 
assumed the lead — and kept it too ; and the con- 
temptuous scorn of what he did not approve. But 
then all this was backed by admirable training and 
full knowledge. He was a deeply read, cultivated 

B 



2 JOHN FORSTER. 

man, a fine critic, and, with all his arrogance, despot- 
ism, and rough " ways," a most interesting, original, 
delightful person — for those he liked that is, and 
whom he had made his own. His very " build " and 
appearance was also that of the redoubtable Doctor: 
so was his loud and hearty laugh. Woe betide the man 
on whom he chose to " wipe his shoes " (Browning's 
phrase), for he could wipe them with a will. He 
would thus roar you down. It was " in&?/-er-able " — 
everything was " in-tol-erable ! " — it is difficult to de- 
scribe the fashion in which he rolled forth the syllables. 
Other things were " all Stuff! " " Monstrous ! " " In- 
credible ! " " Don't tell me ! " Indeed I, with many, 
could find a parallel in the great old Doctor for almost 
everything he said. Even when there was a smile at 
his vehemence, he would unconsciously repeat the 
Doctor's autocratic methods. 

Forster's life was indeed a striking and encourag- 
ing one for those who believe in the example of 
"self-made men." His aim was somewhat different 
from the worldly types, who set themselves to become 
wealthy, or to have lands or mansions. Forster's 
more moderate aspiration was to reach to the fore- 
most rank of the literary world : and he succeeded. 
He secured for himself an excellent education, never 
spared himself for study or work, and never rested 
till he had built himself that noble mansion at 
Kensington, of which I have spoken, furnished with 
books, pictures, and rare things. Here he could, 
Maecenas-like, entertain his literary friends of all 



JOHN FORSTER. 3 

degrees, with a vast number of other friends and 
acquaintances, notable in their walks of life. It is 
astonishing what a circle he had gathered round 
him, and how intimate he was with all : political 
men such as Brougham, Guizot, Gladstone, Forster, 
Cornwall Lewis (Disraeli he abhorred as much as his 
friend of Chelsea did, who once asked me, " What 
is there new about our Jezu Premier ? ") : Maclise, 
Landseer, Frith, and Stanfield, with dozens of cTfrTer 
painters : every writer of the day, almost without 
exception, late or early. With these, such as 
Anthony Trollope, he was on the friendliest terms, 
though he did not "grapple them to him with hooks 
of steel." With the Bar it was the same : he was 
intimate with the brilliant and agreeable Cockburn ; 
with Lord Coleridge (then plain Mr. Coleridge), who 
found a knife and a fork laid for him any day that he 
chose to drop in, which he did pretty often. The 
truth was that in any company his marked person- 
ality, both physical and mental ; his magisterial face 
and loud decided voice, and his reputation of judge 
and arbiter, at once impressed and commanded 
attention. People felt that they ought to know this 
personage at once. 

It is extraordinary what perseverance and a 
certain power of will, and that of not being denied, 
will do in this way. His broad face and cheeks 
and burly person were not made for rebuffs. He 
seized on persons he wished to know and made them 
his own at once. I always thought it was the most 

B 2 



4 JOHN FORSTER. 

characteristic thing known of him in this way, his 
striding past Bunn the manager — then his enemy — in 
his own theatre, taking no notice of him and passing 
to Macready's room, to confer with him on measures 
hostile to the said Bunn. As Johnson was said to 
toss and gore his company, so Forster trampled on 
those he condemned. I remember he had a special 
dislike to one of Boz's useful henchmen. An amusing 
story was told, that after some meeting to arrange 
matters with Bradbury and Evans, the printers, Boz, 
ever charitable, was glad to report to Forster some 
hearty praise by this person, of the ability with which 
he (Forster) had arranged the matters, thus amiably 
wishing to propitiate the autocrat in his friend's 
interest. But, said the uncompromising Forster, " I 
am truly sorry, my dear Dickens, that I cannot 
reciprocate your friend's compliment, for a d — nder 
ass I never encountered in the whole course of my life / " 
A comparative that is novel and will be admired. 

Forster had a determined way with him, of forcing 
an answer that he wanted ; driving you into a corner 
as it were. A capital illustration of this power 
occurred in my case. I had sent to a London " second 
hand " bookseller to supply me with a copy of the 
two quarto volumes of Garrick's life, " huge armfuls." 
It was with some surprise that I noted the late 
owner's name and book-plate, which was that of 
" John Forster, Esq., Lincoln's Inn Fields." At the 
moment he had given me Garrick's original MS. 
correspondence, of which he had a score of volumes, 



JOHN FORSTER. O 

and was helping me in many other ways. Now it 
was a curious coincidence that this one, of all existing 
copies, should come to me. Next time I saw him I 
told him of it. He knitted his brows and grew 
thoughtful. " My copy ! Ah ! I can account for it ! 
It was one of tlievolumes I lent to that fellow" — 
mentioning the name of the " fellow " — " he no doubt 
sold it for drink ! " " Oh, so that was it," I said 
rather incautiously. " But you," he said sternly, " tell 
me what did you think when you saw my name ? 
Come now ! How did it leave my library ? " This 
was awkward to answer. " I suppose you thought I 
was in the habit of selling my books ? Surely not ? " 
Now this was what I had thought. " Come ! You 
must have had some view on the matter. Two huge 
volumes like that are not easily stolen." It was with 
extraordinary difficulty that I could extricate myself. 

It was something to talk to one who had been 
intimate with Charles Lamb, and of whom he once 
spoke to me, with tears running down his cheeks, 
" Ah ! poor dear Charles Lamb ! " The next day he 
had summoned his faithful clerk, instructing him to 
look out among his papers — such was his way — for all 
the Lamb letters, which were then lent to me. And 
most interesting they were. In one, Elia calls him 
" Fooster," I fancy taking off Carlyle's pronunciation. 

As a writer and critic Forster held a high, un- 
questioned place, his work being always received with 
respect as of one of the masters. He had based his 
style on the admirable, if somewhat old-fashioned 



6 JOHN FORSTER. 

models, had regularly learned to write, which few do 
now, by studying the older writers : Swift, Addison, 
f > and, above all, the classics. 

He was at first glad to do "job work," and was 
employed by Dr. Lardner to furnish the " Statesmen of 
the Commonwealth " to his Encyclopaedia. Lardner 
received from him a conscientious bit of work, but 
which was rather dry reading, something after the 
pattern of Dr. Lingard, who was then in fashion. 
But presently he was writing co7i amove, a book after 
his own heart, The Life and Adventures of Oliver 
Goldsmith, in which there is a light, gay touch, some- 
what peculiar at times, but still very agreeable. It is 
a charming book, and graced with exquisite sketches 
by his friend Maclise and other artists. There was 
a great deal of study and " reading " in it, which 
engendered an angry controversy with Sir James 
Prior, a ponderous but pains-taking writer, who had 
collected every scrap that was connected with Goldy. 
Forster, charged with helping himself to what another 
had gathered, sternly replied, as if it could not be 
disputed, that he had merely gone to the same 
common sources as Prior, and had found what he had 
found ! But this was seasoned with extraordinary 
abuse of poor Prior, who was held up as an impostor 
for being so industrious. Nothing better illustrated 
Forster's way : "The fellow was preposterous — intoler- 
able. I had just as good a right to go to the old 
magazines as he had." It was, indeed, a most 
amusing and characteristic controversy. 



JOHN FORSTER. 7 

At this time the intimacy between Boz and the 
young writer — two young men, for they were only 
thirty^Sfk — was of the closest. Dickens' admiration 
of his friend's book was unbounded. He read it 
with delight and expressed his admiration with an 
affectionate enthusiasm. It was no wonder that in 
"gentle Goldsmith's life" thus unfolded, he found a 
replica of his own sore struggles. No one knew 
better the " fiercer crowded misery in garret toil and 
London loneliness " than he did. 

TO CHARLES DICKENS. 

Genius and its rewards are briefly told : 
A liberal nature and a niggard doom, 
A difficult journey to a splendid tomb. 

New writ, nor lightly weighed, that story old 

In gentle Goldsmith's life I here unfold ; 

Thro' other than lone wild or desert gloom, 
In its mere joy and pain, its blight and bloom, 

Adventurous. Come with me and behold, 

O friend with heart as gentle for distress, 
As resolute with fine wise thoughts to bind 
The happiest to the unhappiest of our kind, 

That there is fiercer crowded misery 

In garret toil and London loneliness 

Than in cruel islands mid the far off sea. 
March, 1848." John Forster. 

pn«il I ■"■■ 

It will be noted what a warmth of affection is 
shown in these pleasing lines. Some of the verses 
linger in his memory : the last three especially. The 
allusion to Dickens is as truthful as it is charming. 
The " cruel islands mid the far off sea " was often 




8 JOHN FORSTER. 

quoted, though there were sometimes sarcastic appeals 
to the author to name his locality. 

This Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith is 
a truly charming book : charming in the writing, in 
its typographic guise, and its forty graceful illustra- 
tions by his friends, Maclise, Leech, Browne, etc. It 
appeared in 1848. A pleasing feature of those times 
was the close fellowship between the writers and 
the painters and other artists, as was shown in the 
devoted affection of Maclise and others to Dickens. 
There is more of class apart nowadays. Artists and 
writers are not thus united. The work has gone 
through many editions ; but, after some years the whim 
seized him to turn it into an official literary history 
of the period, and he issued it as a " Life and Times," 
with an abundance of notes and references. All the 
pleasant air of story telling, the " Life and Adven- 
tures," so suited to poor Goldy's shiftless career, were 
abolished. It was a sad mistake, much deprecated 
by his friends, notably by Carlyle. But at the period 
Forster was in his Sir Oracle vein and inclined to 
lofty periods. 

" My dear Forster," wrote Boz to him, " I cannot 
sufficiently say how proud I am of what you have done, 
and how sensible I am of being so tenderly connected 
with it. I desire no better for my fame, when my 
personal dustiness shall be past the contrast of my 
love of order, than such a biographer — and such a 
critic. And again I say most solemnly that literature 
in England has never had, and probably never will 



JOHN FORSTER. 9 

have, such a champion as you are in right of this 
book." " As a picture of the time I really think it is 
impossible to give it too much praise. It seems to 
me to be the very essence of all about the time that 
I have ever seen in biography or fiction, presented in 
most wise and humane lights. I have never liked him 
so well. And as to Goldsmith himself and his life, 
and the manful and dignified assertion of him, without 
any sobs, whines, or convulsions of any sort, it is 
throughout a noble achievement of which, apart from 
any private and personal affection for you, I think and 
really believe I should feel proud." What a genuine 
affectionate ring is here ! 

Later Forster lost this agreeable touch, and issued 
a series of ponderous historical treatises, enlargements 
of his old " Statesmen." These were dreary things, 
pedantic, solemn and heavy ; they might have been by 
the worthy Rollin himself. Such was the Life of Sir 
fohn Eliot) the A west of the Five Members, and others. 

No one had been so intimate with Savage 
Landor as he had, or admired him more. He had 
known him for years and was chosen as his literary 
executor. With such materials one might have 
looked for a lively, vivacious account of this tempes- 
tuous personage. But Forster dealt with him in his 
magisterial way, and furnished a heavy treatise, on 
critical and historical principles. Everything here is 
treated according to the strict canons and in judicial 
fashion. On every poem there was a long and 
profound criticism of many pages, which I believe 



y 



10 JOHN FORSTER. 

was one of his own old essays used again, fitted into 
the book. The hero is treated as though he were 
some important historical personage. Everyone knew 
Landor's story ; his shocking violences and lack of 
restraint ; his malignity where he disliked. His life 
was full of painful episodes, but Forster, like Podsnap, 
would see none of these things. He waved them 
away with his " monstrous ! " " intolerable ! " and put 
them out of existence. 

According to him, not a word of the scandals was 
true. Landor was a noble-hearted man ; misjudged, 
and carried away by his feelings. The pity of it was 
he could have made of it a most lasting, entertaining 
book had he brought to it the pleasantly light touch 
he was later to bring to his account of Dickens. But 
he took it all too solemnly. Landor's life was full of 
grotesque scenes, and Forster might have alleviated 
the harsh views taken of his friend by dealing with 
him as an impetuous, irresponsible being, amusing 
even in his delinquencies. Boz gave a far juster view 
of him in Boytliom. In almost the year of his death 
Forster began another tremendous work, The Life 
of Swift, for which he had been preparing and 

i collecting for many years. No one was so fitted by 
profound knowledge of the period. He had much 
valuable MS. material, but the first volume, all he lived 
to finish, was leaden enough. Of course he was writing 
with disease weighing him down, with nights that 

1 were sleepless and spent in general misery. But even 
with all allowance it was a dull and conventional thine:. 



JOHN FORSTER. 11 

It has been often noted how a mere trifle will, in 
an extraordinary way, determine or change the whole 
course of a life. I can illustrate this by my own case. 
I was plodding on contentedly at the Bar without 
getting " no forrarder," with slender meagre prospects, 
but with a hankering after " writing," when I came to 
read this Life of Goldsmith that I have just been 
describing, which filled me with admiration. The 
author was at the moment gathering materials for his 
Life of Swift, when it occurred to me that I might 
be useful to him in getting up all the local Swiftian 
relics, traditions, etc. I set to work, obtained them, 
made the sketches, and sent them to him in a batch. 
He was supremely grateful, and never forgot the 
volunteered trifling service. To it I owe a host of 
literary friends and acquaintance with the " great 
guns," Dickens, Carlyle, and the rest ; and when I 
ventured to try my prentice pen, it was Forster who 
took personal charge of the venture. It was long 
remembered at the HouseJwld Words office how he 
stalked in one morning, stick in hand, and, flinging 
down the paper, called out, " Now, mind, no nonsense 
about it, no humbug, no returning it with a polite 
circular, and all that ; see that it is read and duly 
considered." That was the turning-point. To that 
blunt declaration I owe some forty years of enjoy- 
ment and employment — for there is no enjoyment 
like that of writing — to say nothing of money in 
abundance. 

He once paid a visit to Dublin, when we had 



12 JOHN FORSTER. 

many an agreeable expedition to Swift's haunts, 
which, from the incuriousness of the place at the 
time, were still existing. We went to Hoey's Court 
in " The Liberties," a squalid alley with a few ruined 
houses, among which was the one in which Swift was 
born. Thence to St. Patrick's, to Marsh's Library, 
not then rebuilt, where he turned over with infinite 
interest Swift's well-noted folios. Then on to Trinity 
College, where there was much that was curious ; to 
Swift's Hospital, where, from his office in the Lunacy 
Commission, he was quite at home. He at once 
characteristically assumed the air of command, intro- 
ducing himself with grave dignity to the authorities, 
by-and-bye pointing out matters which might be 
amended, among others the bareness of the walls, 
which were without pictures. In the grounds he 
received all the confidences of the unhappy patients 
and their complaints (one young fellow bitterly 
appealing to him on the hardship of not being allowed 
to smoke, while he had a pipe in his mouth at the 
time). He would pat others on the back and en- 
courage them in quite a professional manner. Of 
all these Swift localities I had made little vignette 
drawings in " wash," which greatly pleased him and 
were to have been engraved in the book. They are 
now duly registered and to be seen in the collection 
at South Kensington. Poor dear Forster ! How 
happy he was on that " shoemaker's holiday " of 
his, driving on outside cars (with infinite difficulty 
holding on), walking the streets, seeing old friends, 



JOHN FORSTER. 13 

and delighted with everything. His old friend and 
class fellow, Whiteside, gave him a dinner to which I 
attended him, where was the late Dr. Lloyd, the 
Provost of the College, a learned man, whose works 
on " Optics " are well known. It was pleasant to 
note how Forster, like his prototype, the redoubt- 
able Doctor, here " talked for ostentation." " I knew, 
sir," he might say, " that I was expected to talk, 
to talk suitably to my position as a distinguished 
visitor." And so he did. It was an excellent lesson 
in conversation to note how he took the lead — " laid 
down the law," while poor Whiteside flourished away 
in a torrent of words, and the placid Lloyd more 
adroitly strove occasionally to " get in." But Forster 
held his way with well-rounded periods, and seemed 
to enjoy entangling his old friend in the conse- 
quences of some exuberant exaggeration. " My dear 
Whiteside, how can you say so ? Do you not see that 
by saying such a thing you give yourself away ? " etc. 
Forster, however, more than redeemed himself 
when he issued his well-known Life of Dickens, a work 
that was a perfect delight to the world and to his 
friends. For here is the proper lightness of touch. 
The complete familiarity with every detail of the 
course of the man of whose life his had been a 
portion, and the quiet air of authority which he could 
assume in consequence, gave the work an attraction 
that was beyond dispute. There have been, it is said, 
some fifteen or sixteen official Lives issued since the 
writer's death ; but all these are written " from out- 



14 JOHN FORSTER. 

side" as it were, and it is extraordinary what a 
different man each presents. But hardly sufficient 
credit has been given to him for the finished style 
which only a true and well trained critic could have 
brought, the easy touch, the appropriate treatment of 
trifles, the mere indication as it were, the correct 
passing by or sliding over of matters that should not 
be touched. All this imparted a dignity of treatment, 
and though familiar, the whole was gay and bright. 
True, occasionally he lapsed into his favourite pom- 
pousness and autocracy, but this made the work 
more characteristic of the man. Nothing could have 
been in better taste than his treatment of certain 
passages in the author's life as to which, he showed, 
the public were not entitled to demand more 
than the mere historical mention of the facts. When 
he was writing this Life it was amusing to find how 
sturdily independent he became. The " Blacking 
episode" could not have been acceptable, but 
Forster was stern and would not bate a line. So, 
with much more — he " rubbed it in " without scruple. 
The true reason, by the way, of the uproar raised 
against the writer, was that it was too much of a close 
borough, no one but Boz and his Bear leader being 
allowed upon the stage. Numbers had their little 
letters from the great man with many compliments 
and favours which would look well in print. Many, 
like Wilkie Collins or Edmund Yates, had a whole 
collection. I myself had some sixty or seventy. 
Some of these personages were highly indignant, for 



JOHN FORSTER. 15 

were they not characters in the drama? When the 
family came to publish the collection of letters, Yates, 
I believe, declined to allow his to be printed ; so did 
Collins, whose Boz letters were later sold and pub- 
lished in America. 

No doubt the subject inspired. The ever gay and 
lively Boz, always in spirits, called up many a happy 
scene, and gave the pen a certain airiness and nimble- 
ness. There is little that is official or magisterial 
about the volumes. Everything is pleasant and 
interesting, put together — though there is a crowd 
of details — with extraordinary art and finish. It 
furnishes a most truthful and accurate picture of the 
" inimitable," recognizable in every page. It was only 
in the third volume, when scared by the persistent 
clamours of the disappointed and the envious, pro- 
testing that there was " too much Forster," that it 
was virtually a " Life of John Forster, with some 
recollections of Charles Dickens," that he became of 
a sudden, official and allowed others to come too 
much on the scene, with much loss of effect. That 
third volume, which ought to have been most inter- 
esting, is~~the dull one. We have Boz described as 
he would be in an encyclopaedia, instead of through 
Forster, acting as his interpreter, and much was lost 
by this treatment. Considering the homeliness and 
every-day character of the incidents, it is astonishing 
how Forster contrived to dignify them. He knew 
from early training what was valuable and significant 
and what should be rejected. 



L< 



16 JOHN FORSTER. 

Granting the objections — and faults — of the book, 
it may be asked, who else in the 'seventies was, not so 
fitted, but fitted at all to produce a Life of Dickens. 
Every eye looked, every finger pointed to Forster ; 
worker, patron, and disciple, confidant, adviser, cor- 
recter, admirer, the trained man of letters, and in the 
school in which Boz had been trained, who had known 
every one of that era. No one else could have been 
thought of. And as we now read the book, and con- 
trast it with those ordered or commissioned bio- 
graphies, so common now, and perhaps better wrought, 
we see at once the difference. The success was extra- 
ordinary. Edition after edition was issued, and that 
so rapidly, that the author had no opportunity of 
making the necessary corrections, or of adding new 
information. He contented himself with a leaf or 
two at the end, in which, in his own imperial style, 
he simply took note of the information. I believe his 
profit was about £10,000. 

A wonderful feature was the extraordinary amount 
of Dickens' letters that was worked into it. To save 
time and trouble, and this I was told by Mrs. Forster, 
he would cut out the passages he wanted with a pair 
of scissors and paste them on his MS ! As the 
portion written on the back was thus lost, the rest 
became valueless. I can fancy the American collector 
tearing his hair as he reads of this desecration. But 
it was a rash act and a terrible loss of money. Each 
letter might have later been worth say from five to 
ten pounds apiece. 



JOHN FORSTER. 17 

It would be difficult to give an idea of Forster's 
overflowing kindness on the occasion of the coming 
of friends to town. Perpetual hospitality was the 
order of the day, and, like so many older Londoners, 
he took special delight in hearing accounts of the 
strange out-of-the-way things a visitor will discover, 
and with which he will even surprise the resident. 
He enjoyed what he called " hearing your adventures." 
I never met anyone with so boisterous and enjoying 
a laugh. Something would tickle him, and, like 
Johnson in Fleet Street, he would roar and roar 
again. Like Diggory, too, at the same story, or 
rather scene ; for, like his friend Boz, it was the picture 
of some humorous incident that delighted, and would 
set him off into convulsions. One narrative of my 
own, a description of the recitation of Poe's The Bells 
by an actress, in which she simulated the action of 
pulling the bell for the Fire, or for a Wedding or 
Funeral bells, used to send him into perfect hysterics. 
And I must say that I, who have seen and heard 
all sorts of truly humorous and spuriously humorous 
stories in which the world abounds at the present 
moment, have never witnessed anything more divert- 
ing. The poor lady thought she was doing the thing 
realistically, while the audience was shrieking with 
enjoyment. I do not know how many times I was 
invited to repeat this narrative, a somewhat awkward 
situation for me, but I was glad always to do what he 
wished. I recall Browning coming in, and I was 
called on to rehearse this story, Forster rolling on the 

c 



18 JOHN FORSTER. 

sofa in agonies of enjoyment. This will seem trivial 
and personal, but really it was characteristic ; and 
pleasant it was to find a man of his sort so natural 
and even boyish. 

At the head of his table, with a number of agree- 
able and clever guests around him, Forster was at his 
best. He seemed altogether changed. Beaming 
smiles, a gentle, encouraging voice, and a tenderness 
verging on gallantry to the ladies, took the place of 
the old, rough fashions. He talked ostentatiously, 

I he led the talk, told most a propos anecdotes of the 
remarkable men he had met, and was fond of fortify- 
ing his own views by adding : " As Gladstone, or 
Guizot, or Palmerston said to me in my room," etc. 
But you could not but be struck by the finished 
shapes in which his sentences ran. There was a 
weight, a power of illustration, and a dramatic 
colouring that could only have come of long practice. 
He was gay, sarcastic, humorous, and it was impos- 
sible not to recognise that here was a clever man and 
a man of power. 

Forster's ideal of hospitality was not reciprocity, 
but was bounded by his entertaining everybody. 
Not that he did not enjoy a friendly quiet dinner at 
your table. Was he on his travels at a strange place ? 
You must dine with him at his hotel. In town you 
must dine with him. He might dine with you. This 
dining with you must be according to his programme. 
When he was in the vein and inclined for a social 
domestic night he would let himself out. 



JOHN FORSTER. 19 

Maclise's happy power of realising character is 
shown inimitably in the picture of Forster at the 
reading of The Christmas Carol, seated forward in his 
chair, with a solemn air of grave judgment. There is 
an air of distrust, or of being on his guard, as who 
should say, " It is fine, very fine, but I hold my 
opinion in suspense till the close. I am not to be 
caught as you are, by mere flowers." He was in fact 
distinct from the rest, all under the influence of emo- 
tion. Harness is shown weeping, Jerrold softened, 
etc. These rooms, as is well known, were Mr. 
Tulkinghorn's in the novel, and over Forster's head, 
as he wrote, was the floridly-painted ceiling, after the 
fashion of Verrio, with the Roman pointing. This 
was effaced many years ago, but I do not know 
when. 

By all his friends Forster was thought of as a 
sort of permanent bachelor. His configuration and 
air were entirely suited to life in chambers : he was 
thoroughly literary ; his friends were literary ; there 
he gave his dinners ; married life with him was 
inconceivable. He had lately secured an important 
official post, that of Secretary to the Lunacy Com- 
missioners, which he gained owing to his useful 
services when editing the Examiner. This necessarily 
led to the Commissionership, which was worth a good 
deal more. Nowadays we do not find the editors of 
the smaller papers securing such prizes. I remember 
when he was encouraging me to " push my way," he 
illustrated his advice by his own example : " I never 

C 2 



20 JOHN FORSTER. 

let old Brougham go. I came back again and again 
until I wore him out. I forced 'em to give me this." 
I could quite imagine it. Forster was a troublesome 
customer, " a harbitrary cove," and not to be put off, 
except for a time. It was an excellent business 
appointment, and he was admitted to be an admir- 
able official. 

In one of Dickens' letters, published by his 
children, there is a grotesque outburst at some 
astounding piece of news : an event impending, 
which seemed to have taken his breath away. It 
clearly refers to his friend's marriage. Boz was so 
tickled at this wonderful news that he wrote : 
" Tell Catherine that I have the most prodigious, 
overwhelming, crushing, astounding, blinding, deafen- 
ing, pulverising, scarifying, secret of which Forster 
is the hero, imaginable, by the whole efforts of 
the whole British population. It is a thing of the 
kind that, after I knew it (from himself) this morning, 
I lay down flat as if an engine and tender had fallen 
upon me." This pleasantly boisterous humour is in 
no wise exaggerated. I fancy it affected all Forster's 
friends much in the same way, and as an exquisitely 
funny and expected thing. How many pictures did 
Boz see before him — Forster proposing to the widow 
in his sweetest accents, his deportment at the 
church, &c. There was not much sentiment in the 
business, though the bride was a sweet, charming 
woman, as will be seen, too gentle for that tem- 
pestuous spirit. She was a widow — " Yes, gentle- 



JOHN FORSTER. 21 

men, the plaintiff is a widow," widow of Colburn, 
the publisher, a quiet little man, who worshipped 
her. She was well endowed, inheriting much of his 
property, even to his papers, etc. She had also a 
most comfortable house in Montague Square, where, 
as the saying is, Forster had only to move in and 
" hang up his hat." 

With all his roughness and bluntness, Forster had 
a very soft heart, and was a great appreciator of the 
sex. He had some little " affairs of the heart," which, 
however, led to no result. He was actually engaged 
to the interesting L. E. L. (Letitia Landon), whom he 
had no doubt pushed well forward in the Examiner ; 
for the fair poetess generally contrived to enlist the 
affections of her editors, as she did those of Jerdan, 
director of the once powerful Literary Gazette. We 
can see from his Memoirs how attracted he was by 
her. The engagement was broken off, it is believed, 
through the arts of Dr. Maginn, and it is said that 
Forster behaved exceedingly well in the transaction. 
Later he became attached to another lady, who had 
several suitors of distinction, but she was not dis- 
posed to entrust herself to him. 

No one so heartily relished his Forster, his ways 
and oddities, as Boz ; albeit the sage was his faithful 
friend, counsellor, and ally. He had an exquisite 
sense for touches of character, especially for the little 
weaknesses so often exhibited by sturdy, boisterous 
natures. We again recall that disposition of Johnson, 
with his "bow to an Archbishop," listening with 



22 JOHN FORSTER. 

entranced attention to a dull story told by a foreign 
" diplomatist." " The ambassador says well" would 
the sage repeat many times, which, as Bozzy tells, 
became a favourite form in the coterie for ironical 
approbation. There was much of this in our great 
man, whose voice became of the sweetest and most 
mellifluous key, as he bent before the peer. " Lord 

," he would add gently, and turning to the 

company, " has been saying, with much force," etc. 

I recall the Guild fete down at Knebworth, where 
Forster was on a visit to its noble owner, Lord 
Lytton, and was deputed to receive and marshal'the 
guests at the station, an office of dread importance, 
and large writ over his rather burly person. His 
face was momentous as he patrolled the platform. I 
remember coming up to him in the crowd, but he 
looked over and beyond me, big with unutterable 
things. Mentioning this later to Boz, he laughed 
his cheerful laugh, " Exactly," he cried. " Why, I 
assure you, Forster would not see me!" He was 
busy pointing out the vehicles, the proper persons to 
sit in them, according to their dignity. All through 
that delightful day, as I roamed through the fine old 
halls, I would encounter him passing by, still in his 
lofty dream, still controlling all, with a weight of 
delegated authority on his broad shoulders. Only at 
the very close did he vouchsafe a few dignified, 
encouraging words, and then passed on. He re- 
minded me much of Elia's description of Bensley's 
Malvolio. 



JOHN FORSTER. 23 

There was nothing ill-natured in Boz's relish of 
these things ; he heartily loved his friend. It was the 
pure love of fun. Podsnap has many touches of 
Forster, but the writer dared not let himself go in 
that character as he would have longed to do. When 
Podsnap is referred to for his opinion, he delivers 
it as follows, much flushed and extremely angry : 
" Don't ask me. I desire to take no part in the 
discussion of these people's affairs. I abhor the 
subject. It is an odious subject, an offensive subject 
that makes me sick, and I"— with his favourite right 
arm flourish which sweeps away everything and 
settles it for ever, etc. These very words must 
Forster have used. It may be thought that Boz 
would not be so daring as to introduce his friend into 
his stories, " under his very nose " as it were, submit- 
ting the proofs, etc., with the certainty that the 
portrait would be recognised. But this, as we know, 
is the last thing that could have occurred, or the 
last thing that would have occurred to Forster. It 
was like enough someone else, but not he. 

" Mr. Podsnap was well to do, and stood very high 
in Mr. Podsnap's opinion." " He was quite satisfied. 
He never could make out why everybody was not 
quite satisfied, and he felt conscious that he set a 
brilliant social example in being particularly well 
satisfied with most things and with himself." " Mr. 
Podsnap settled that whatever he put behind him he 
put out of existence." " I don't want to know about 
it. I don't desire to discover it." " He had, however, 



24 JOHN FORSTER. 

acquired a peculiar flourish of his right arm in the 
clearing the world of its difficulties." " As so emi- 
nently respectable a man, Mr. Podsnap was sensible 
of its being required of him to take Providence 
under his protection. Consequently he always knew 
exactly what Providence intended." 

These touches any friend of Forster's would 
recognise. He could be very engaging, and was 
at his best when enjoying what he called a shoemaker's 
holiday — that is, when away from town at some 
watering-place, with friends. He was then really 
delightful, because happy, having left all his solemni- 
ties and ways in London. 

Forster was a man of many gifts, an admirable 
hard-working official, thoroughly business-like and 
industrious. I recall him through all the stages of 
his connection with the Lunacy Department, as 
Secretary and Commissioner and Retired Commis- 
sioner, when he would arrive on " melting days " as 
it were. But it was as a cultured critic that he was 
unsurpassed. He was ever " correct," and delivered 
a judgment that commended itself on the instant ; it 
was given with such weight and persuasion. This 
correctness of judgment extended to most things, 
politics, character, literature, and was pleasant to 
listen to. He was one of the old well-read school, 
and was never without his edition of Shakespeare, 
the Globe one, which he took with him on his 
journeys. He had a way of lightly emphasising the 
beauty of a special passage of the Bard's. 



JOHN FORSTER. 25 

Once, travelling round with Boz, on one of his 
reading tours, we came to Belfast, where the huge 
Ulster Hall was filled to the door by ardent and 
enthusiastic Northerners. I recall how we walked 
round the rather grim town, with its harsh red 
streets, the honest workers staring at him hard. We 
put up at an old-fashioned hotel, the best — the Royal 
it was called, where there was much curiosity on the 
part of the ladies to get sly peeps at the eminent 
man. They generally contrived to be on the stairs 
when he emerged. Boz always appeared, even in the 
streets, somewhat carefully " made up." The velvet 
collar, the blue coat, the heavy gold pin, added to the 
effect. 

It was at this hotel, when the show was over, and 
our agreeable supper cleared away, that I saw the 
pleasant Boz lying on the sofa somewhat tired by his 
exertions, not so much on the boards as in that very 
room. For he was fond of certain parlour gymnastics, 
in which he contended with his aide-de-camp Dolby. 
Well, as I said, he was on his sofa somewhat fatigued 
with his night's work, in a most placid, enjoying frame 
of mind, laughing with his twinkling eyes, as he often 
did, squeezing and puckering them up when our talk 
fell on Forster, whom he was in the vein for enjoying. 
It had so fallen out that, only a few weeks before, 
Trinity College, Dublin, had invited Forster to receive 
an honorary degree, a compliment that much gratified 
him. I was living there at the time, and he came and 
stayed with me in the best of humours, thoroughly 



26 JOHN FORSTER. 

enjoying it all. Boz, learning that I had been with 
him, insisted on my telling him everything, as by in- 
stinct he knew that his friend would have been at his 
best. The scenes we passed through together were 
indeed of the richest comedy. First I see him in 
highest spirits trying on a doctor's scarlet robe, to be 
had on hire. On this day he did everything in state, 
in his special " high " manner. Thus he addressed the 
tailor in rolling periods : " Sir, the University has been 
good enough to confer a degree on me, and I have 
come over to receive it. My name is John Forster." 
(I doubt if his name had reached the tailor). "Cer- 
tainly, sir." And my friend was duly invested with 
the robe. He walked up and down before a pier 
glass. " Hey, what now ? Do you know, my dear 
friend, I really think I must buy this dress. It would 
do very well to go to Court in, hey ? " He indulged 
his fancy. " Why I could wear it on many occasions. 
A most effective dress." But it was time now to wait 
on " the senior Bursar," or some such functionary. 

This was one Doctor L , a rough, even uncouth, 

old don, who was for the nonce holding a sort of rude 
class, surrounded by a crowd of " undergrads." Never 
shall I forget that scene. Forster went forward, 
with a mixture of gracious dignity and softness, and 

was beginning, " Doc-tor L ." Here the turbulent 

boys round him interrupted. "Now see here," said 
the irate Bursar, "it's no use all of ye's talking together. 
Sir, I can't attend to you now." Again Forster began 
with a gracious bow. " Doctor L , I have come 



JOHN FORSTER. 27 

over at the invitation of the University, who have 
been good enough to offer me an honorary degree, 
and " 

" Now see here," said the doctor, " there's no use 
talking to me now. I can't attend to ye. All of ye 
come back here in an hour and take the oath, all 
together mind." 

" I merely wished to state, Doctor L ," began 

the wondering Forster. 

"Sir I tell ye I can't attend to ye now. You 
must come again," and he was gone. 

I was at the back of the room, when my friend 
joined me, very ruminative and serious. "Very odd, 
all this," he said, " but I suppose when we do come 
back, it will be all right ? " 

" Oh yes, he is noted as an odd man," I said. 

" I don't at all understand him, but I suppose it is 
all right. Well come along, my dear friend." I then 
left him for a while. After the hour's interval I 
returned. The next thing I saw from the back of 
the room was my burly friend in the front row of a 
number of irreverent youngsters of juvenile age, some 
of whom close by me were saying, " Who's the stout 
old bloke ; what's he doing here ? " 

" Now," said the Bursar and senior fellow, " take 
these Testaments on your hands, all o' ye." And 
then I saw my venerable friend, for so he looked in 
comparison, with three youths sharing his Testament 
with them. But he was serious. For here was a most 
solemn duty before him. " Now repeat after me. Ego" 



28 JOHN FORSTER. 

a shout, "Joannes, Carolus," as the case might be"juro 
solemniter" &c. Forster might have been in church 
going through a marriage ceremony, so reverently did 
he repeat the formula. The lads were making a joke 
of it. 

Forster, as I said, was indeed a man of the old 
fashion of gallantry, making his approaches where he 
admired sans cere'monie, and advancing boldly to cap- 
ture the fort. I remember a dinner, with a young lady 
who had a lovely voice, and who sang after the dinner 
to the general admiration. Forster had never seen 
her before, but when she was pressed to sing again 
and again, and refused positively, I was amazed to see 
Forster triumphantly passing through the crowded 
room, the fair one on his arm, he patting one of her 
small hands which he held in his own ! She was flat- 
tered immensely and unresisting ; the gallant Foster 
had carried all before him. This was his way, never 
would he be second fiddle anywhere if he could help 
it. Not a bad principle for any one if they can only 
manage it. 

I remember one night, when he was in his gallant 
mood laying his commands on a group of ladies, 
to sing or do something agreeable, he broke out : 
" You know I am a despot, and must have my way, 
I'm such a harbitrary cove." The dames stared at 
this speech, and' I fancy took it literally, for they had 
not heard the story. This I fancy did not quite 
please, for he had no notion of its being supposed he 
considered himself arbitrary ; so he repeated and en- 



JOHN FORSTER. 29 

forced the words in a loud stern voice. (Boswellians 
will recall the scene where Johnson said " The woman 
had a bottom of sense." When the ladies began to 
titter, he looked round sternly saying " Where's the 
merriment ? I repeat the woman is fundamentally sen- 
sible." As who should say " now laugh if you dare ! ") 
The story referred to was that of the cabman who 
summoned Forster for giving him a too strictly 
measured fare, and when defeated, said " it warn't the 
fare, but he was determined to bring him there for 
he were such a harbitrary cove." No story about 
Forster gave such delight to his friends as this; he 
himself was half flattered, half annoyed. 

Forster liked to be with people of high degree — 
as, perhaps, most of us do. At one time he was 
infinitely flattered by the attentions of Count Dorsay, 
who, no doubt, considered him a personage? This 
odd combination was the cause of great amusement 
to his friends, who were, of course, on the look out 
for droll incidents. There was many a story in 
circulation. One was that Forster, expecting a pro- 
mised visit from " the Count," received a sudden call 
from his printers. With all solemnity he impressed 
the situation on his man. " Now," he said, "you will 
tell the Count that I have only just gone round to 
call on Messrs. Spottiswoode, the printers — you will 
observe, Messrs. Spot-is-wode," added he, articulating 
the words in his impressive way. The next time 
Forster met the Count, the former gravely began to 
explain to him the reason of his absence. " Ah ! I 



30 JOHN FORSTER. 

know," said the gay Count, " you had just gone round 
to Ze Spotted Dog — I understand," as though he 
could make allowance for the ways of literary men. 
Once Forster had the Count to dinner — a great 
solemnity. When the fish was " on " the host was 
troubled to note that the sauce had not yet reached 
his guest. In an agitated deep sotto voce, he said, 
" Sauce to the Count." The " aside " was unheard. 
He repeated it in louder, but more agitated tones, 
" Sauce to the Count." This, too, was unnoticed ; 
when, louder still, the guests heard, " Sauce for the 
Flounders of the Count!' This gave infinite delight 
to the friends, and the phrase became almost a pro- 
verb. Forster learning to dance in secret, in prepara- 
tion for some festivity, was another enjoyment, and 
his appearance on the scene, carefully executing the 
steps, his hands on the shoulders of a little girl, 
caused much hilarity. 

All this is amusing in the same way as it was 
amusing to Boz, as a capital illustration of character, 
genuinely exhibited, and yet it is with the greatest 
sympathy and affection I recall these things : but they 
were too enjoyable. There is nothing depreciating, 
no more than there was in Bozzy's record, who so 
amiably puts forward the pleasant weaknesses of his 
hero. Though twenty years and more have elapsed 
since he passed from this London of ours, there is 
nothing I think of with more pleasure and affection 
than those far-off scenes in which he figured so large 
and strong, supplying dramatic action, character, and 



JOHN FORSTER. 31 

general enjoyment. The figures of our day seem 
to me to be small, thin and cardboard-like in 
comparison. 

Boz himself is altogether mixed up with Forster's 
image, and it is difficult to think of one without 
recalling the other. In this connection there comes 
back on me a pleasant comedy scene, in which the 
former figured, and which, even at this long distance 
of time, raises a smile. When I had come to town, 
having taken a house, etc., with a young and pretty 
wife, Dickens looked on encouragingly ; but at times 
shaking his head humorously, as the too sanguine 
plans were broached : " Ah, the little victims play" he 
would quote. Early in the venture he good-naturedly 
came to dine en famille with his amiable and interes- 
ting sister-in-law. He was in a delightful mood, and 
seemed to be applying all the points of his own Dora's 
attempts at housekeeping, with a pleasant slyness : the 
more so as the little lady of the house was the very 
replica of that piquant and fascinating heroine. She 
was destined, alas ! to but a short enjoyment of her 
little rule, but she gained all hearts and sympathies 
by her very taking ways. Among others the redoubt- 
able John Forster professed to be completely " cap- 
tured," and was her most obstreperous slave. He, too, 
was to have been of the party, but was prevented by 
one of his troublesome chest attacks. Scarcely had 
Boz entered when he drew out a letter, I see him 
now standing at the fire, a twinkle in his brilliant 
eyes. " What is coming over Forster," he said, rumin- 



32 JOHN FORSTER. 

ating, " I cannot make him out. Just as I was 
leaving the house I received this," and he read aloud, 
" I can't join you to-day. But mark you this, sir ! 
no tampering, no poaching on my grounds ; for I 
won't have it. Recollect Codlin's the friend not 
Short! " With a wondering look Boz kept repeating 
in a low voice : " ' Codlin's the friend not Short.' 
What can he mean ? What do you make of it ? " I 
knew perfectly, as did also the little lady who stood 
there smiling and flattered, but it was awkward to 
explain. But he played with the thing ; and it could 
only be agreed that Forster at times was perfectly 
" amazing," or " a little off his head." 

And what a dinner it was ! What an amusing 
failure, too, as a first attempt; suddenly, towards 
the end of the dinner, a loud, strange sound was 
heard, as of falling or rushing waters ; it was truly 
alarming ; I ran out and found a full tide streaming 
down the stairs. The cook in her engrossment had 
forgotten to turn a cock. " Ah, the little victims 
play ! " and Boz's eyes twinkled. A loud-voiced 
cuckoo and quail were sounding their notes, which 
prompted me to describe a wonderful clock of the 
kind I had seen, with two trumpeters who issued 
forth at the hour and gave a prolonged flourish before 
striking, then retired, their doors closing with a smart 
clap. This set off Boz in his most humorous vein. 
He imagined the door sticking fast, or only half- 
opening, the poor trumpeter behind pushing with his 
shoulder to get out, then giving a feeble gasping 



JOHN FORSTER. 33 

tootle with much " whirring " and internal agonies ; 
then the rest is silence. 

On another occasion came Forster himself and 
lady, for a little family dinner ; the same cook 
insisted on having in her husband, "a dear broth of a 
boy," to assist her. Forster arriving before he was 
expected, he was ever more than punctual ; the tailor 
rushed up eagerly to admit him, forgetting, however, 
to put on his coat ! As he threw open the door he 
must have been astonished at Forster's greeting " No, 
no, my good friend, I altogether decline. I am not 
your match in age, weight, or size," a touch of his 
pleasant humour and good spirits. 

As of course Forster deeply felt the death of his 
old friend and comrade, the amiable and constant 
Dickens, he was the great central figure in all the 
dismal ceremonial that followed. He arranged every- 
thing admirably, he was executor with Miss Hogarth, 
and I could not but think how exactly he reproduced 
his great prototype, Johnson, in a similar situation. 
Bozzy describes the activity and fuss of the sage 
hurrying about with a pen in his hand and dealing 
with the effects : " We are not here," he said, " to take 
account of a number of vats, &c, but of the poten- 
tiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice." 
So was Forster busy, appraising copyrights, and 
realizing assets, all which work he performed in a 
most business-like fashion. That bequest in the will 
of the gold watch, to his " trusty friend, John 
Forster," I always thought admirably summarized 
D 



34 JOHN FORSTER. 

the relations of the two friends. I myself received 
under his will one of his ivory paper-knives, and a 
paper-weight marked C. D. in golden letters, which 
was made for and presented to him at one of the 
pottery works. 

One of the most delightful little dinners I had was 
an impromptu one at Forster's house, the party being 
himself, myself, and Boz. The presence of a third, 
not a stranger yet not an intimate, prompted both to 
be more free than had they been tete-a-tete. Boz was 
what might best be called " gay." His fashion of talk 
was to present things that happened in a pleasantly 
humorous light. On this occasion he told us a good 
deal about a strange being, Chauncey Hare Towns- 
hend, from whom he may have drawn Twemlow in 
Our Mutual Friend. Every look in that sketch re- 
minds me of him ; he, too, had a shy shrinking man- 
ner, a soft voice, but, in his appearance most of all, was 
Twemlow ; he had a rather over-done worship of 
Dickens, wishing " not to intrude," etc. ; he was a 
delicate, unhealthy looking person, rather carefully 
made up. Boz was specially pleasant this day on an 
odd bequest of his ; for poor Twemlow had died, and 
he, Boz, was implored to edit his religious writings : 
rather a compendium of his religious opinions to be 
collected from a mass of papers in a trunk. For which 
service ^"1,000 was bequeathed. Boz was very humor- 
ous on his first despair at being appointed to such an 
office; then described his hopeless attempts "to make 
head or tail " of the papers. " Are they worth any- 



JOHN FORSTER. 35 

thing as religious views ? " I asked. " Nothing what- 
ever, I should say," he said, with a humorous twinkle 
in his eye, " I must only piece them together some- 
how." And so he did, I forget under what title, I 
think Religious Remains of the late C. H. T. There 
was probably some joking on this description. It is 
fair to say that Boz had to put up with a vast deal of 
this admiring worship, generally from retiring creatures 
whom his delicate good-nature would not let him 
offend. 

Forster's large sincerity was remarkable, as was 
his generous style, which often carried him to extra- 
ordinary lengths. They were such as one would only 
find in books. I remember once coming to London 
without giving him due notice, which he always im- 
peratively required to be done. When I went off to 
his house at Palace Gate, presenting myself about five 
o'clock, he was delighted to see me, as he always was, 
but I saw he was very uncomfortable and distressed. 
" Why didn't you tell me," he said testily, " a day or 
two ago would have done. But now, my dear fellow, 
the table's full — it's impossible." "What?" I asked, 
yet not without a suspicion of the truth — for I knew 
him. " Why, I have a dinner party to-day! De Mussy, 
the Doctor of the Orleans family, and some others are 
coming, and here you arrive at this hour ! Just look 
at the clock — I tell you it can't be done." In vain I 
protested ; though I could not say it was " no matter," 
for it was a serious business. " Come with me into the 
dining-room and you'll see for yourself." There we 

D 2 



36 JOHN FORSTER. 

went round the table, and " The table's full" he re- 
peated from Macbeth. There was something truly- 
original in the implied premise that his friend was 
entitled of right to have a place at his table, and that 
the sole dispensing cause to be allowed was absence 
of space or a physical impossibility. It seems to me 
that this was a very genuine, if rare, shape of hospitality. 
Of all Forster's friends at this time, of course, 
after Dickens, and he had innumerable ones, his 
fastest seemed Robert Browning. As every Sunday 
came round it wasT'rule that the Poet was to dine 
with him. Many were the engagements his host 
declined on the score of this standing engagement. 
" Should be delighted, my dear friend, to go to you, 
but it is an immemorial custom that every Sunday 
Robert Browning dines with vie. Nothing interferes 
with that." Often, indeed, during the week the Poet 
would drop in for a chat or consultation, often when 
I was there. He was a most agreeable person, without 
any affectation ; while Forster maintained a sort of 
patriarchal or paternal manner to him, though there 
was not much difference in their ages. Indeed, on 
this point, Forster well illustrated what has been often 
said of Mr. Pickwick and his time, that age has been 
much " put back " since that era. Mr. Pickwick, 
Wardle, Tupman and Co., are all described as old 
gentlemen, none of the party being over fifty ; but 
they had to dress up to the part of old gentlemen, 
and with the aid of corpulence, " circular spectacles," 
&c, conveyed the idea of seventy. Forster in the 



JOHN FORSTER. 37 

same way was then not more than forty-five, but had 
a full-blown official look, and with his grave, solemn 
utterances, you would have set him down for sixty. 
Now-a-days men of that age, if in sound order, feel, 
behave, and dress as men of forty. Your real old man 
does not begin till he is about seventy-five or so. 

Browning having an acquaintance that was both 
"extensive and peculiar," could retail much gossip 
and always brought plenty of news with him : to hear 
which Forster did seriously incline. The Poet, too, 
had a pleasant flavour of irony or cynicism in his 
talk, but nothing ill-natured. What a pleasant Sunday 
that was when Frederick Chapman, the publisher, 
invited me and Forster, and Browning, with one or 
two more, whose names I have forgotten, down to 
Teddington. It was the close of a sultry summer's 
day, we had a cool and enjoyable repast, with many 
a joke and retailed story. Thus, " I was stopped to- 
day," said Browning, " by a strange, dilapidated 
being. Who do you think it was ? After a moment, 
it took the shape of old Harrison Ainsworth." " A 
strange, dilapidated being," repeated Forster, mus- 
ingly, "so the man is alive." Then both fell into 
reminiscences of grotesque traits, &c. This affectionate 
intercourse long continued. But alas ! this compulsory 
Sunday dining, as the philosopher knows, became at 
last a sore strain, and a mistake. It must come to 
Goldsmith's " travelling over one's mind," with power 
to travel no farther. Browning, too, had been "found 
out by Society" ; was the guest at noble houses, and 









38 JOHN FORSTER. 

I suppose became somewhat lofty in his views. No 
one could scoff so loudly and violently as could 
Forster, at what is called snobbishness, " toadying 
the great " ; though it was a little weakness of his 
own, and is indeed of everybody. However, on some 
recent visit, I learned to my astonishment, that a com- 
plete breach had taken place between the attached 
friends, who were now " at daggers drawn," as it is 
called. The story went, as told, I think, by Browning, 
who would begin : " I grew tired of Forster's always 
wiping his shoes on me." He was fond of telling his 

friend about " dear, sweet, charming Lady ," &c. 

Forster, following the exact precedent of Mrs. Prig 
in the quarrel with her friend, would break into a 
scornful laugh, and, though he did not say " drat 
Lady ," he insisted she was a foolish, empty- 
headed creature, and that Browning praised her 
because she had a title. This was taken seriously, 
and the Poet requested that no disparaging remarks 
would be made on one of his best friends. " Pooh," 
said Forster, contemptuously, " some superannuated 
creature ! I am astonished at you." How it ended 
I cannot say, but it ended painfully. 

Some time elapsed and friends to both sides felt 
that here was a sort of scandal, and it must be made 
up. No one was more eager than Forster. Mutual 
explanations and apologies were given and all was as 
before. The liberal Forster, always eager to find "an 
excuse for the glass," announced a grand reconcilia- 
tion dinner, to which came a rather notable party, 



JOHN FORSTER. 39 

to wit, Thomas Carlyle, Browning and his son, 
the Rev. Whitwell Elwin, the editor of Pope, and 
sometime editor of the Quarterly, the young Robert 
Lytton, myself, and some others whom I have for- 
gotten. What an agreeable banquet it was ! Elwin 
was made to retell, to Forster's convulsive enjoyment, 
though he had heard it before, a humorous incident 
of a madman's driving about in a gig with a gun and 
a companion, who up to that moment thought he was 
sane. The Sage of Chelsea had his smoke as usual, 
. a special churchwarden and a more-special " screw " 
of tobacco having been carefully sent out for and laid 
before him. There was something very interesting in 
this ceremonial. We juniors at the end of the table, 
Robert Lytton and myself, both lit a cigar, which 
brought forth a characteristic lecture from Forster ; 
" I never allow smoking in this room, save on this 
privileged occasion when my old friend Carlyle 
honours me. But I do not extend that to you Robert 
Lytton, and you (this to me). You have taken the 
matter into your own hands, without asking leave or 
license ; as that is so, and the thing is done, there is 
no more to be said." Here of course we understood 
that he wished to emphasize the compliment to his 
friend and make the privilege exclusively his. But 
he would have liked to hear, " May we also 
smoke ? " 

Forster's affection for Carlyle and his pride in him 
was delightful to see. I think he had more reverence 
for him than for anybody. He really looked on him 



40 JOHN FORSTER. 

■ 
as an inspired Sage, and this notion was encouraged 

)by the retired fashion in which he of Chelsea lived, 
showing himself but rarely. Browning was seated 
near his host, but I noticed a sort of affected and 
strained empressement on both sides. Later I heard 
a loud scoffing laugh from Forster, but the other, 
apparently by a strong effort, repressed himself and 
- made no reply. Alas ! as was to be expected, the 
feud broke out again and was never healed. Though 
Browning would at times coldly ask me after his old 
friend. 

There was no better dramatic critic than Forster, 
for he had learned his criticism in the school of 
Macready and the old comedies. He had a perfect 
instinct for judging even when not present, and I 
recollect, when Salvini was being set up against 
Irving, his saying magisterially : " Though I have 
not seen either Mr. Salvini or Mr. Irving, I have a 
perfect conviction that Salvini is an actor and Mr. 
Irving is not." He had the finest declamation, was 
admirable in emphasis, and in bringing out the 
meaning of a passage, with expressive eye and 
justly-modulated cadences. I never had a greater 
treat than on one night, after dining with him, he 
volunteered to read aloud to us the Kitely passages 
from Every Man in his Humour, in which piece 
at the acted performances he was, I suspect, the 
noblest Roman of 'em all. It was a truly fine 
performance ; he brought out the jealousy in the 
most powerful and yet delicately suggestive fashion. 



JOHN FORSTER. 41 

Every emotion, particularly the anticipation of such 
emotions, was reflected in his mobile features. His 
voice, deep and sonorous, and at times almost 
flutey with softness, was under perfect control ; he 
could direct it as he willed. The reading must 
have called up many pleasant scenes, the excite- 
ment, his friends, the artists and writers, who all 
had taken part in the " splendid strolling " as he 
called it, and now all gone ! 

He often, however, mistook inferior birds for 
swans. He once held out to us, as a great treat, the 
reading of an unpublished play of his friend Lord 
Lytton, which was called Walpole. All the characters 
spoke and carried on conversation in hexameters. 
The effect was ridiculous. A more tedious thing, 
with its recondite and archaic allusions to Pulteney 
and other Georgian personages, could not be con- 
ceived. The ladies in particular, after a scene or 
two, soon became weary. He himself lost faith in 
the business, and saw that it was fiat, so he soon 
stopped, but he was mystified at such non-intelligence. 
There was quite a store of these posthumous pieces 
of the late dramatist, some of which I read. But 
most were bad and dreary. 

Forster had no doubt some oracular ways, which, 
like Mr. Peter Magnus's in Pickwick, " amused his 
friends very much." " Dicky " Doyle used to tell 
of a picnic excursion when Forster was expatiating 
roundly on the landscape, particularly demanding 
admiration for " yonder purple cloud " how dark, 



42 JOHN FORSTER. 

how menacing it was." " Why, my dear Forster," 
cried Doyle, " it's not a cloud at all, but only a piece 
of slated roof! " Forster disdained to notice the cor- 
rection, but some minutes later he called to him loudly 
before the crowd : " See, Doyle ! yonder is not a cloud, 
but a bit of slated roof: there can be no doubt of it." 
In vain Doyle protested, " Why, Forster, I said that 
to you ! " " My dear Doyle," said Forster, sweetly, 
"it's no more a cloud than I am. I repeat you are 
mistaken, it's a bit of slated roof." 

To myself, he was ever kind and good-natured, 
though I could smile sometimes at his hearty and 
well-meant patronage. Patronage ! it was rather 
wholesale " backing " of his friends. Thus, one mor- 
ning he addressed me with momentous solemnity, 
" My dear fellow, I have been thinking about you for 
a long time, and I have come to this conclusion : you 
must write a comedy. I have settled that you can do 
it ; you have powers of drawing character and of 
writing dialogue ; so I have settled, the best thing 
you can do is to write a comedy." Thus had he given 
his permission and orders, and I might fall to work 
with his fullest approbation. I have no doubt he told 
others that he had directed that the comedy should 
be written. 

On another day, my dachshund " Toby " was 
brought to see him. For no one loved or understood 
the ways of dogs better. He greatly enjoyed "the 
poor fellow's bent legs," rather a novelty then, and 
at last with a loud laugh : " He is Sir Toby ! no 



JOHN FORSTER. 4o 

longer Toby. Yes my dear friend he must be Sir 
Toby henceforth." He had knighted him on the 
spot ! 

Forster always stands out pre-eminently as " the 
friend," the general friend, and it is pleasant to be 
handed down in such an attitude. We find him as 
the common referee, the sure-headed arbiter, good- 
naturedly and heartily giving his services to arrange 
any trouble or business. How invaluable he was to 
Dickens is shown in the " Life." With him friend- 
ship was a high and serious duty, more responsible 
even than relationship. His warm heart, his time, 
his exertions, were all given to his friend. No doubt 
he had some little pleasure in the importance of 
his office, but he was in truth really indulging his 
affections, and warm heart. 

Among his own dearest friends was one for whom 
he seemed to have an affection and admiration that 
might be called tender ; his respect, too, for his 
opinions and attainments were strikingly unusual 
in one who thought so much of his own powers of 
judgment. This was the Rev. Whitwell Elwin, 
Rector of Booton, Norwich. He seemed to me a 
man quite of an unusual type, of much learning 
and power, and yet of a gentle modesty that was 
extraordinary. In some things the present Master of 
the Temple, Canon Ainger, very much suggests him. 
I see Elwin now, a spare wiry being with glowing 
pink face and a very white poll. He seemed a 
muscular person, yet never was there a more retiring, 



44 JOHN FORSTER. 

genial and delicate-minded soul. His sensitiveness 
was extraordinary, as was shown by his relinquishing 
his monumental edition of Pope's Works, after it had 
reached to its eighth volume. The history of this 
proceeding has never been clearly explained. Xo 
doubt he felt, as he pursued his labours, that his sense 
of dislike to Pope and contempt for his conduct was 
increasing, that he could not excuse or defend him. 
Elwin was in truth the " complement " of Forster's 
life and character. It was difficult to understand the 
one without seeing him in the company of the other. 
It was astonishing how softened and amiable, and 
even schoolboy-like, the tumultuous John became 
when he spoke of or was in company with his old 
friend ; he really delighted in him. Forster's liking 
was based on respect for those gifts of culture, pains- 
taking and critical instinct, which he knew his friend 
possessed, and which I have often heard him praise 
in the warmest and sincerest fashion. " In El-win " 
— he seemed to delight in rolling out the syllables in 
this divided tone — " in El-ween you will find style and 
finish. If there is anyone who knows the topic it is 
El-win. He is your man." 

I was bringing out a magnum opus, dedicated to 
Carlyle, Boswell's Life of fohnson, entailing a vast 
deal of trouble and" research. The amiable Elwin, 
whom I consulted, entered into the project with a 
host of enthusiasm. He took the trouble of rummag- 
ing his note books, and continued to send me week 
by week many a useful communication, clearing up 



JOHN FORSTER. 45 

doubtful passages. But what was this to his service 
when I was writing a Life~of -Sterne,* and the friendly 
Forster, interesting himself in the most good-natured 
way, determined that it should succeed, and put me 
in communication with Elwin. No doubt he was 
interested in his protege, and Elwin, always willing 
to please, as it were, received his instructions. 
Presently, to my wonder and gratification, arrived an 
extraordinary letter, if one might so call it, which 
filled over a dozen closely written pages (for he com- 
pressed a marvellous quantity into a sheet of paper), 
all literally overflowing with information. It was an 
account of recondite and most unlikely works in 
which allusions to Sterne and many curious bits of 
information were stowed away ; chapter and page 
and edition were given for every quotation ; it must 
have taken him many hours and much trouble to 
write. And what an incident it was, the two well- 
skilled and accomplished literary critics exerting 
themselves, the one to secure the best aid of his 
friend, the other eager to assist, because his friend 
wished it. 

* I recall a meeting by special appointment with Elwin, 
who came to lunch to debate it. He had already my letter, 
turned it over and over again, but without result. The point 
was what edition should be used — the first or the last ; this 
latter having, of course, the advantage of the authors latest 
revision. On the great question of "Johnson's stay at Oxford," 
which has exercised all the scholars, and is still in a more or 
less unsatisfactory way, he agreed with me. 



46 JOHN FORSTER. 

In the course of these Shandian enquiries, the 
passage in Thackeray's lecture occurred to me where 
he mentions having been shown Eliza's Diary by a 
" Gentleman of Bath." I wished to find out who 
this was, when my faithful friend wrote to the 
novelist and sent me his reply, which began, " My 
dear Primrose " — his charmingly appropriate nick or 
pet name for Elwin, who was the very picture of the 
amiable vicar. It resulted in the gentleman allowing 
me to look at his journal. 

Letter from Elwin on the " unfortunate Dr. 
Dodd " :— 

Booton Rectory, Norwich, 

Oct. 31st, 1864. 

My dear Mr. . — I have been ill for some weeks past, 

which has prevented my writing to you. It is of the less 
importance that I can add nothing to your ample list of 
authorities, except to mention, if you are not already aware of 
it, that there is a good deal about Dr. Dodd and his doings, in 
" Chrysal, or the Adventures of a Guinea." The contemporary 
characters which figure in the work are described partly by 
real, and partly by invented circumstances. But you at least 
get the view which the author entertained of the persons he 
introduces on the scene. I missed the first part of your Memoir 
of Dodd, in the Dublin Magazine. The second I saw, and 
thought it extremely interesting, and very happily written. I 
was surprised at the quantity of information you had got 
together. I cannot help you to any detailed account of the 
Maccaroni preachers. They are glanced at in the second book 
of Cowper's Task. They have existed, and will exist in every 
generation, but it is seldom that any record is preserved of 
them. They are the butterflies of the hour. There are no 
means by which you can keep worthless men from making a 



JOHN FORSTER. 47 

trade of religion, and as long as there are people simple enough 
to be dupes, so long there will be impostors. It is strange to 
see what transparent acting will impose upon women. To be 
popular, to draw large audiences, is the avowed object of many 
of these preachers. The late R. Montgomery once introduced 
himself to an acquaintance of mine on the platform at some 
religious meeting. Montgomery commenced the conversation 
by the remark, " You have a chapel in the West End." " Yes," 
said my friend. "And I hope to have one soon," replied M., 
" for I am satisfied that I have the faculty for adapting the 
Gospel to the West End." You may tell the story if you give 
no names. 

You have anticipated my Sterne anecdotes. I will just men- 
tion one circumstance. In the advertisement to the edition of 
Sterne's Works, in 10 vols. (1798), it is stated (Vol. I, p. iv.) 
" that the letters numbered 129, 130 and 131, have not those 
proofs of authenticity which the others possess." Now, letter 
131 is very important, for it is that in which Sterne replies to 
the remonstrances against the freedoms in Tristram Shandy. 
It may be satisfactory to you to know that some years after the 
edition of Sterne's Works the letter was published by Richard 
Warner (apparently from the original) in the Appendix to his 
Literary Recollections. He was not, I suppose, aware that it 
had been printed before. Warner was ordained in the North, 
and his work will throw some light upon the state of things in 
those regions at a period close upon Sterne's time. You will 
find it worth while to glance over it. If I can be of any help to 
you I shall only be too happy. 

Believe me ever, most sincerely yours, 

W. Elwin. 

There is something touching in this deep affection, 
exhibited by so rough and sturdy a nature and main- 
tained without flagging for so many years. With 
him it was " the noble Elwin," " the good Elwin," " as 



48 JOHN FORSTER. 

ever, most delightful," " kinder and more considerate 
than ever." " Never were letters so pleasant to me 
as yours," he wrote in 1865, "and it is sad to think 
that from months we are now getting on to years 
with barely a single letter." " My dear fellow," he 
wrote again, " with the ranks so thinning around us, 
should we not close up, come nearer to each other ? 
None are so dear to us at home as Mrs. Ehvin and 
yourself and all of you." One of the last entries in 
his diary was, " Precious letter from dearest Ehvin. 
December 10th, 1875." 

Ehvin had, perhaps, a colder temperament, or did 
not express his devotion. But his regard would seem 
to have been as deep-seated ; as indeed was shown in 
the finely drawn tribute he paid him after his death, 
and which is indeed the work of an accomplished 
writer and master of expression. " He was two 
distinct men," wrote Ehvin to John Murray the elder, 
in 1876, "and the one man quite dissimilar from the 
other. To see him in company I should not have 
recognised him for the friend with whom I was 
intimate in private. Then he was quiet, natural, 
unpretending, and most agreeable, and in the warmth 
and generosity of his friendship he had no superior. 
Sensitive as he was in some ways, there was no man 
to whom it was easier so speak with perfect frankness. 
He always bore it with gentle good nature." * 

* To Elwin Forster left ,£2,000 and his gold watch, no 
doubt the one bequeathed by Dickens. Forster appointed 
him, without consulting him, one of his executors, but knowing 



JOHN FORSTER. 49 

At another time he wrote with warmth, " Most 
welcome was your letter this morning, as your letters 
always are to me. They come fraught with some 
new proof of the true, warm-hearted, generous friend 
who has made life worth something more to me than 
it was a year ago," 1857.* 

When Forster married, in 1856, he was eager that 
El win should officiate, and proposed going down to 
Norfolk. But legal formalities were in the way, and 
Elwin came to London instead. " He never," says 
Warwick Elwin, " wavered in his attachment to him. 
Sometimes he would be momentarily vexed at some 
fancied neglect, but the instant they met again it was 
all forgotten." Elwin was, in fact, subject to moods 
and " nerves," and there were times when he shrank 
sensitively from the world and its associations — he 
would answer no letters, particularly after the period 
of his many sore trials. The last time I saw him 
was at that great fiasco, the production of the first 



well that he could rely on his good will, and the legacy no 
doubt was intended as a solatium for the labour thus enforced. 
Lord Lytton and Justice Chitty were the other executors. As 
Lord Lytton was in India the whole burden fell on the other 
two, and mostly on Elwin. As his son tells, the literary part 
of the business was most considerable ; there was an edition of 
Landor to be " seen through " the press ; there was a vast 
number of papers and letters to be examined, preserved or 
destroyed. " His own inclination and Forster's instructions 
were in the direction of destroying all personal letters, however 
eminent the writer might be." 
f Memoirs by Warwick Elwin. 
E 



50 JOHN FORSTER. 

Lord Lytton's posthumous play on the subject of 
Brutus, produced by Wilson Barrett, with extra- 
ordinary richness and pomp: a failure that led to an un- 
pleasant dispute between Lytton's son and the lessee. 

When the Life of Dickens appeared, Elwin, as in 
duty bound, proceeded to review it in the Quarterly. 
I confess that on reading over this article there seems 
to be a curious reserve and rather measured stint of 
praise. One would have expected from the generous 
Elwin one enthusiastic and sustained burst of praise 
of his friend's great work. But it seems as though 
he felt so trifling a matter was scarcely worthy of 
solemn treatment. The paper is only twenty pages 
long, and, after a few lines of praise at the beginning 
and a line or two at the end, proceeds to give a 
summary of the facts. The truth was Elwin was too 
scrupulously conscientious a critic to stretch a point 
in such a matter. I could fancy that for one of his 
nice feeling it became an almost disagreeable duty. 
Were he tempted to expand in praises, it would be 
set down to partiality, while he was hardly free to 
censure. No wonder he wrote of his performance : 
" Forster will think it too lukewarm ; others the 
reverse." As it happened, the amiable Forster was 
enchanted. 

" For upwards of three-and-thirty years," says 
Mr. Elwin in this review (Q. R., vol. 132, p. 125), " Mr. 
Forster was the incessant companion and confidential 
adviser of Dickens ; the friend to whom he had re- 
course in every difficulty, personal and literary ; and 



JOHN FORSTER. 51 

before whom he spread, without reserve, every fold of 
his mind. No mans life has ever been better known 
to a biographer. . ~~." . To us it appears that a more 
faithful Kbgraphy could not be written. Dickens is 
seen in his pages precisely as he is showed in his 
ordinary intercourse." 

Both Elwin and his friend had that inflexibility 
of principle in criticism and literary utterance which 
they adhered to as though it were a matter of high 
morals. This feeling contrasts with the easy adapt- 
ability of our day, when the critic so often has to 
shape his views according to interested aims. He 
indeed will hold in his views, but may not deem 
it necessary to produce them. I could recall instances 
in both men of this sternness of opinion. Forster 
knew no compromise in such matters; though I fancy 
in the case of people of title, for whom, as already 
mentioned, he had a weakness, or of pretty women, he 
may have occasionally given way. I remember when 
Elwin was writing his fine estimate of his deceased 
friend, Mrs. Forster in deep distress came to tell me 
that he insisted on describing her husband as " the son 
of a butcher." In vain had she entreated him to leave 
this matter aside. Even granting its correctness, what 
need or compulsion to mention it ? It was infinitely 
painful to her. But it was not true : Forster's father 
was a large " grazier " or dealer in cattle. Elwin, 
however, was inflexible : some Newcastle alderman 
had hunted up entries in old books, and he thought 
the evidence convincing. 

E 2 



■»■> 









IOHN FORSTER. 



Another incident connected with the memory 
of her much-loved husband, that gave this amiable 
woman much poignant distress, was a statement 
made by Mr. Furnival, the Shakesperian, that 
Browning had been employed by Forster to write 
the account of Strafford, in the collection of 
Lives. He had been told this by Browning himself. 
Nevertheless, she set all her friends to work ; had 
papers, letters, etc., ransacked for evidence, but with 
poor result. The probability was that Forster would 
have disdained such aid ; on the other hand, the 
Poet had written a tragedy on the subject, and was, 
therefore, capable of dealing with it. Letters of vin- 
dication were sent to the papers, but no one was 
much interested in the point one way or the other ; 
save, of course, the good Mrs. Forster, to whom it was 
vital. I am afraid, however, there was truth in the 
statement ; for it is completely supported by a stray 
passage in one of the Poet's letters to his future wife, 
recently published. 

Forster, I fancy, must have often looked wistfully 
back to the old Lincoln's Inn days, when he sat in 
his large Tulkinghorn room, with the Roman's finger 
pointing down to his head. I often grieve' that I did 
not see this Roman, as I might have done, before he 
was erased ; for Forster was living there when I first 
knew him On his marriage he moved to that snug 
house in Montague Square, where we had often cosy 
dinners. He was driven from it, he used to say, by 
the piano-practising on each side of him, which be- 



JOHN FORSTER. 53 

came " in-ta/-erable " ; but I fancy the modest house 
was scarcely commensurate with his ambitions. It 
was somewhat old-fashioned too. And yet in his 
grand palatial mansion at Kensington I doubt if he 
was as jocund or as irrepressible as then. I am cer- 
tain the burden of an ambitious life told upon his 
health and spirits. 

I often turn back to the day when I first called 
on him, at the now destroyed offices at Whitehall, 
when he emerged from an inner room in a press of 
business. I see him now, a truly brisk man, full of 
life and energy, and using even then his old favourite 
hospitable formula, " My dear sir, I am very busy — 
very busy ; I have just escaped from the commission- 
ers. But you must dine with me to-morrow and we 
will talk of these things." Thus he did not ask 
you, but he " commanded you," even as a king 
would. 

One of the most interesting things about Forster 
was his " receptivity." Stern and inflexible as he 
was in the case of old canons, he was always ready 
to welcome anything new or striking, provided it had 
merit and was not some imposture. I never met a 
better appreciator of genuine humour. He had been 
trained, or had trained himself; whatever shape it 
had, only let it have merit. He thoroughly enjoyed 
a jest, and furnished his own obstreperous laugh 
by way of applause. As I have said, there was 
something truly Johnsonian about him ; everything 
he said or decided you knew well was founded on a 



54 JOHN FORSTER. 

principle of some kind ; he was a solid judicial man, 
and even his hearty laugh of enjoyment was always 
based on a rational motive. This sort of solid well- 
trained men are rather scarce nowadays. 

Forster was also a type of the old Cromwellian or 
Independant with reference to religious liberty. He 
could not endure, therefore, " Romish tyranny," as he 
called it, which stifled thought. Many of his friends 
were Roman Catholics. There were "touches" in 
Forster as good as anything in the old comedies. 

His handsome and spacious library, with its gallery 
running round, was well known to all his friends. 
Richly stored was it with book treasures, manuscripts, 
rare first editions, autographs, in short all those things 
which may now be seen at South Kensington. He 
had a store of other fine things somewhere else, and 
kept a secretary or librarian, to whom he issued his in- 
structions. For he himself did not profess to know the 
locale of the books and papers, and I have often heard 
him in his lofty way direct that instructions should 

be sent to Mr. to search out such and such 

documents. He had grand ideas about his books, 
and spared no cost either in his purchases or bindings. 
I have seen one of his quarto MS. thus dressed by 
Riviere in plain decoration, but which he told me had 
* cost £yd. 

Once for some modest private theatricals I had 
written a couple of little pieces to be acted by our- 
selves and our friends. One was called Blotting 
Paper, the other The William Simpson. A gay 



JOHN FORSTER. 55 

company was invited, and I recall how the performers 
were pleased and encouraged when the face of the 
brilliant author of a Lady of Lyons was seen in the 
front row. Forster took the whole under his protec- 
tion, and was looking forward to attending, but his 
invariable terrible cough seized on him. Mrs. Forster 
was sent with strict instructions to observe and report 
everything that did or could occur on this interesting 
occasion. I see her soft amiable face smiling en- 
couragement from the stalls. I rose greatly in my 
friend's estimation from this attendance of the author 
of Pel ham. " How did you manage it ? " " He goes 
nowhere or to few places. It was a gr-eat com- 
pliment." 

This little performance is associated in a melan- 
choly way with the closing days of Dickens' career. 
I was naturally eager to secure his presence, and 
went to see him at "his office" to try and persuade 
him to attend ; he pleaded, however, his over- 
whelming engagements. I find in an old diary some 
notes of our talk. " Theatricals led to Regnier, whom 
I think he had been to see in Les Vieux Gargons. 
He said he found him very old. " Alas ! He is 
Vieux Gargon himself." I think of our few little 
dinners in my house ; would we had had more ! 
Somehow since I have been living here the image 
of him has been more and more stamped on me ; 
I see and like him more. The poor, toiling, 
loveable fellow, to think that all is over with him 
now ! " 



56 JOHN FORSTER. 

[At the risk of smiles, and perhaps some suspicion 
of vanity, I go on to copy what follows.] " When I 
saw Mrs. Forster during those dismal days, she was 
good enough to relate to me much about his personal 
liking for me. He would tell them how I could do 
anything if I only gave myself fair play. He said 
he was going to write to give me a sound blowing up. 
" And yet," he added, " I doubt if he would take it 
from anybody else but me. He is a good fellow." 
[I still doubt whether I should add what follows, but 
I am not inclined to sacrifice such a tribute from 
such a man ; told me, too, only a few days after his 
death.] He praised a novel of mine, No. 75, Brooke 
St., and here are his words : " The last scene and 
winding up is one of the most powerful things I have 
met." 

Forster, devoted to the school of Macready, and 
all but trained by that actor, whose bust was placed 
in his hall, thought but poorly of the performances of 
our time. He pooh-poohed them all, including even 
the great and more brilliant successes. Once a clever 
American company came over, a phenomenal thing at 
that time, and appeared at the St. James's Theatre. 
They played She Stoops to Conquer, with two excellent 
performers as Old Hardcastle and Marlow ; Brough 
was the Tony. I induced Forster to come and see 
them, and we made up a party. He listened with 
an amusing air of patronage, which was habitual 
with him — meant to encourage — and said often that 
" it was very good, very fair indeed." Brough he 



JOHN FORSTER. 57 

admitted was perhaps the nearest to the fitting tone 
and spirit of the piece. The two American actors, as 
it seemed to me, were excellent comedians. 

I once saw him at St. James's Hall, drawn to hear 
one of his friend's last readings. I saw his entrance. 
He came piloted by the faithful Charles Kent, who 
led, or rather cleared the way, Forster following with a 
smiling modesty, as if he sought to avoid too much 
notice. His rotund figure was swathed in a tight fitting 
paletot, while a sort of nautical wrapper was round his 
throat. He fancied no doubt that many an eye was 
following him ; that there was many a whisper, " That 
is the great John Forster." He passed on solemnly 
through the hall and out at the door leading to the 
artistes' rooms. Alas ! no one was thinking of him ; 
he had been too long absent from the stage. It is 
indeed extremely strange, and I often wonder at it> 
how little mark he made. The present and coming 
generations know nothing about him. I may add 
here that, at Dickens' very last Reading at this place, 
I and Charles Kent were the two — the only two — 
favoured with a place on the platform, behind the 
screens. From that coign, I heard him say his last 
farewell words : " Vanish from these garish lights for 
evermore ! " 

One summer Forster and his wife came down to 
Bangor, I believe from a genial good-natured wish 
to be there with his friends — a family who were 
often found there. He put up at the " George," then a 
house of lofty pretensions, though now it would seem 



58 JOHN FORSTER. 

but a modest affair enough. What a holiday it was ! 
The great John unbent to an inconceivable degree ; 
he was soft, engaging even, and in a bright and 
constant good humour. The family consisted of the 
mother, two daughters, and the son, moi qui vous 
park — all of whom looked to him with a sort of awe 
and reverence, which was not unpleasing to him. 
The two girls he professed to admire and love ; the 
mother, a woman of the world, had won him by her 
speech at his dinner party, during which a loud crash 
came from the hall ; he said nothing, but she saw 
the temper working within, and quoted happily from 
Pope, 

" And e ; en unmoved hears China fall." 

Immensely gratified at the implied compliment for his 
restraint, his angry brow was smoothed. To imagine 
a dame of our time quoting Pope at a dinner ! at 
most she would have heard of him. 

What walks and expeditions in that delightful 
Welsh district ! and what unbounded hospitality ! 
He would insist on his favourites coming to dinner 
every few days or so. It was impossible to refuse ; 
equally impossible to make any excuse ; he was so 
overpowering. Everything was swept away. At 
the time the dull pastime of acrostic-writing was 
in high vogue, and some ladies of the party thought 
to compliment him by fashioning one upon his name. 
He accepted the compliment with much complacent 
gratification ; and, when the result was read aloud, it 
was found that the only epithet that would fit his 



JOHN FORSTER. 59 

name, having the proper number of letters, was 
" learned." His brow clouded. It was not what he 
expected. He was good-humouredly scornful. " Well, 
I declare, I did not expect this. I should have 
thought something like ' gallant,' or ' pleasant,' or 
' agreeable '—but ' learned! ' as though I were some 
old pundit. Thank you, ladies." 

No one knew so much as Forster of the literary 
history ofthe days when Dickens first " rose " ; and 
when such men as Lamb, Campbell, Talfourd, 
Theodore Hook, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, and many 
more of that school were flourishing. 

I see him now seated in the stern manipulating 
the ropes of the rudder, with all the air of perfect 
knowledge; diverting the boatmen, putting ques- 
tions to them, and adroitly turning their answers 
into pieces of original information ; lecturing on 
the various objects of interest we passed ; yet all 
the time interesting, and excellent company. At 
times he began to talk of poetry, and would pour 
forth the stores of his wonderful memory, reciting 
passages with excellent elocution, and delighting his 
hearers. I recall the fine style in which he rolled 
forth " Hohenlinden," and " The Royal George," and 
the " Battle of the Baltic." At the close he would sink 
his voice to a low muttering, just murmuring im- 
pressively, " be-neath the wave ! " Then would pause, 
and say, as if overcome — " Fine, very, very fine ! " 
These exercises gave his audience genuine pleasure. 
On shore, visiting the various show things, he grew 



60 JOHN FORSTER. 

frolicsome, and insisted on the visitors as " Mr. and 

Mrs. ," the names of characters in some novel I 

had written. 

It would be an interesting question to consider 
how far Forster's influence improved or injured 
Dickens' work ; for he tells us everything written by 
the latter was submitted to him, and corrections and 
alterations offered. I am inclined to confess that, 
when in his official mood, Forster's notions of humour 
were somewhat forced. It is thus almost startling 
to read his extravagant praise of a passage about 
Sapsea which the author discarded in Edwin Drood. 
Nothing better showed Boz's discretion. The well- 
known passage in The Old Curiosity Shop about the 
little marchioness and her make-believe of orange peel 
j and water, and which Dickens allowed him to mend 
| in his own way, was certainly altered for the worse. 

I had the sad satisfaction, such as it was, of 
attending Forster's funeral, as well as that of his 
amiable wife. T^TTacf a seat in one of the "mourning 
coaches, with that interesting man, James Anthony 
Froude. Not many were bidden to the ceremonial. 

Mrs. Forster's life, like that of her husband, closed 
in much suffering. I believe she might have enjoyed 
a fair amount of health had she not clung with a sort 
of devotion, not unconnected with the memory of her 
husband, to the house which he had built. Nothing 
Y could induce her to go away. She was, moreover, 
offered a sum of over ^"20,000 for it shortly after 
* his death, but declined ; it was later sold for little 



JOHN FORSTER. 61 

over a third of the amount. He had bequeathed all 
his treasures to the nation, allowing her the life use, 
but with much generosity she at once handed over the 
books, pictures, prints, sketches, and other things. She 
bore her sufferings with wonderful patience and sweet- 
ness, and I remember the clergyman who attended 
her, and who was at the grave, being much affected. 

Mrs. Forster was a woman of more sagacity and 
shrewdness of observation than she obtained credit for. 
She had seen and noted many curious things in her 
course. Often of a Sunday afternoon, when I used 
to pay her a visit, she would open herself very freely, 
and reveal to me many curious bits of secret history 
relating to her husband's literary friends. She was 
very amusing on the Sage of Chelsea. I recollecfshe 
treated Mrs. Carlyle's account of her dreary life and 
servitude to her great husband as a sort of romance or 
delusion, conveying that she was not at all a lady 
likely to be thus " put upon." In vulgar phrase, the 
boot was on the other leg. 

I have thought it right to offer this small tribute to 
one who was in his way an interesting and remarkable 
man. No place has been found for him in the series 
known as English Men of Letters ; and yet, as I have 
before pointed out, he had a place in literature that 
somewhat suggests the position of Dr. Johnson. What 
Forster said, or what Forster did, was at one time of 
importance to the community. This sort of arbiter 
is unknown nowadays, and perhaps would not be 



62 JOHN FORSTER. 

accepted. He will, however, ever be associated with 
Charles Dickens, as his friend, adviser, admirer, 
corrector, and biographer. There is a conventional 
meaning for the term " men of letters," men, that is, 
who have written books; but in the stricter sense it 
is surely one who is " learned in letters," as a lawyer 
is learned in the law. Johnson is much more thought 
of in this way than as a writer. Forster had this 
true instinct, and it was a curious thing one day to 
note his delight when I showed him a recent pur- 
chase : a figure of Johnson, his prototype, wrought in 
pottery, seated in chair, in an attitude of wisdom, 
his arms extended and bent, and evidently expati- 
ating. Looking at it, he delivered an acute bit of 
criticism worthy of the Doctor himself. 

" The interest," he said, " of this figure is not in 
the modelling, which is good, but because it repre- 
sents Johnson as he was, in the eye of the crowd of 
his day ; who looked on him, not as the writer, but 
as the grand argitfier and layer-down of the law, the 
' settler ' of any knotty point whatever ; with them 
the Doctor could decide anything. See how his arm 
is half raised, his fingers outspread, as if about to 
give his decision. You should show this to Carlyle, 
who will be delighted with it." 

He often recurred to this and to the delight the 
Sage would have had. I forget whether I followed 
his advice. On the same occasion he noticed a figure 
of Washington. " Ah ! there he stands," he said, 
" with his favourite air of state and dignity, and 



JOHN FORSTER. 63 

sense of what was due to his position. You will 
always notice that in the portraits there was a little 
assumption of the aristocrat." Forster's criticism was 
always of this kind — instructive and acute. 

Forster was the envied possessor of nearly every 
one of Boz's MSS. — a treasure at the time not 
thought very much of, even by Dickens himself, but 
since his death become of extraordinary value. I 
should say that each was worth some two or three 
thousand pounds at the least. How amazing has been 
this appreciation of what dealers call " the Dickens 
stuff" during these years ! It is almost incredible. I 
mind the day when a Dickens' book, a Dickens' letter, 
was taken tranquilly. A relation of my own, an old 
bachelor, had, as we thought, an eccentric penchant 
for early editions of Boz ; and once, on the great man 
coming to the provincial city where he lived, waited 
on him to show him what he called his " Old Gold " ; 
to wit, the earlier editions of Pickwick and Nickleby. 
We all smiled, and I remember Boz speaking to me 
good-naturedly of this enthusiasm. Not one of the 
party then — it was in 1865 — dreamed that this old 
bachelor was far wiser than his generation. The 
original Pickwick, that is bound from the numbers, is 
indeed a nugget of old gold. I remember once 
asking Wills, his sub-editor, could I be allowed to 
have the original MSS. of some of Boz's short stories ? 
He said, "To be sure, that nothing was more easy 
than to ask him, for the printer sent each back to him 
after use, carefully sealed up." What became of all 



64 JOHN FORSTER. 

these papers I cannot tell ; but I doubt if anyone was 
then very eager about them. 

Lately, turning over some old papers, I came 
upon a large bundle of proof " slips " of a story I 
had written for All the Year Round. It was called 
Howard's Son. To my surprise and pleasure I 
found that they had passed through Boz's own hands, 
and had been corrected throughout in his own careful 
and elaborate fashion, whole passages written in, 
others deleted, the punctuation altered and improved. 
Here was a trouvaille. These slips, I may add, 
have extraordinary value, and in the States would 
fetch a considerable sum. It was extraordinary what 
pains Boz took with the papers of his contributors, 
and how diligently and laboriously he improved and 
polished them. 

Forster's latter days, that is, I suppose, for some 
seven or eight years, were an appalling state of 
martyrdom ; no words could paint it. It was gout 
in its most terrible form, that is, on the chest. This 
malady was due, in the first place, to his early hard 
life, when rest and hours of sleep were neglected or 
set at nought. Too good living also was accountable. 
He loved good cheer and had an excellent taste in 
wines, fine clarets, etc. Such things were fatal to his 
complaint. This gout took the shape of an almost 
eternal cough, which scarcely ever left him. It began 
invariably with the night and kept him awake, the 
waters rising on his chest and overpowering him. I 
have seen him on the following day, lying spent and 



JOHN FORSTER. 65 

exhausted on a sofa and struggling to get some 
snatches of sleep, if he could. But as seven o'clock 
drew near, a change came. There was a dinner- 
party ; he " pulled himself together : " began another 
jovial night and in good spirits. But he could not 
resist the tempting wines, etc., and of course had his 
usual " bad " night. Once dining with me, he as 
usual brought his Vichy bottle with him, and held 
forth on the necessity of " putting on the muzzle," 
restraint, etc. He " lectured " us all in a very suitable 
way, and maintained his restraint during dinner. 
There was a bottle of good Corton gently warming 
at the fire, about which he made inquiries, but which 
now, alas ! need not be opened. When the ladies 
were gone, he became very pressing on this topic. 
" My dear fellow, you must not let me be a kill-joy, 
you must really open the bottle for yourself; why 
should you deny yourself for me ? Nonsense ! " It 
suggested Winkle going to fight a duel, saying to his 
friend, " Do not give information to the police." But 
I was inhospitably inflexible. These little touches 
were Forster all over. One would have given any- 
thing to let him have his two or three glasses, but one 
had to be cruel to be kind. Old Sam Johnson was 
of the same pattern, and could not resist a dinner- 
party, even when in serious plight. He certainly 
precipitated his death by his greed. 

I well recall the confusion and grief of one morn- 
ing in July, 1870, when opening the Times I read in 
large capitals, Death of Charles Dickens. It 

F 



66 JOHN FORSTER. 

must have brought a shock more or less to every 
reader. Nothing was less expected, for we had 
not at that time the recurring evening editions, tread- 
ing on each other's heels, to keep us posted up every 
hour in every event of the day. 

I am tempted here to copy from an old diary the 
impressions of that painful time. The words were 
written on the evening of the funeral at 6 p.m.: "Died, 
dear Charles Dickens. I think at this moment of his 
bright genial manner, so cordial and hearty, of the 
delightful days at Belfast — on the Reading Tours — 
The Trains — the Evenings at the Hotel — his lying 
on the sofa listening to my stories and laughing in 
his joyous way. I think, too, of the last time that I 
saw him, which was at his office in Wellington 
Street, whither I went to ask him to come to some 
theatricals that we were getting up. We talked them 
over, and then he began to bewail so sadly, the 
burden of ' going out ' to dinner parties. He said 
that he would like to come, but that he could not 
promise. However, he might come late in the night 
if he could get away from other places. I see his 
figure now before me, standing at the table, the small 
delicate-formed shoulders. Then bringing me into 
another room to show me one of the gigantic golden 
yellow AIL the Year Round placards, presently to be 
displayed on every wall and hoarding of the kingdom. 
This was the announcement of a new story I had 
written for his paper, which he had dubbed ' The 
Doctor's Mixture,' but of which, alas ! he was destined 



JOHN FORSTER. 67 

never to revise the proofs. It had been just hung up 
' to try the effect,' and was fresh from the printers." 

I look back to another of Forster's visits to 
Dublin when he came in quest of materials for his 
Life of Swift, He was in the gayest and best of his 
humour's, and behaved much as the redoubtable Doctor 
Johnson did on his visit to Edinburgh. I see him 
seated in the library at Trinity College, making his 
notes, surrounded by the Dons. Dining with him at 
his hotel, for even here he must entertain his host, he 
lit his cigar after dinner, when an aged waiter of 
the old school interrupted : " Ah, you musn't do 
that. It's agin the rules and forbidden." He little 
knew his Forster ; what a storm broke on his head — 
" Leave the room, you rascal. How dare you, sir, 
interfere with me ! Get out, sir," with much more : 
the scared waiter fled. " One of the pleasantest 
episodes in my life," I wrote in a diary, " has just 
closed. John Forster come and gone, after his visit 
here {i.e. to Dublin). Don't know when I liked a man 
more. He was most genial and satisfactory to talk 
with. His amiable and agreeable wife with him. She 
told a great deal of Boz and his life at home, giving a 
delightful picture of his ordinary day. He would 
write all the morning till one o'clock, and no one 
was allowed to see or interrupt him. Then came 
lunch ; then a long hearty walk until dinner time. 
During the evening he would read in his own room, 
but the door was kept open so that he might hear the 
girls playing — an amiable touch. At Christmas time, 
F I 



68 JOHN FORSTER. 

when they would go down on a visit, he would 
entertain them by reading aloud his proofs and 
passages not yet published. She described to us 
1 Boffin,' out of Our Mutual Friend, as admirable. 
He shows all to Forster before-hand, and consults 
him as to plot, characters, etc. He has a humorous 
fashion of giving his little boys comic names ; later 
to appear in his stories. Thus, one known as 
' Plorn,' which later appeared as ' Plornish.' " This is 
a pleasant picture of the great writer's domestic life, 
and it gives also a faint ' adumbration ' of what is 
now forgotten: the intense curiosity and eager antici- 
pation that was abroad as to what he was doing or 
preparing. Hints of his characters got known ; their 
movements and developments were discussed, and 
the incidents of his story were like public events. 
We have nothing of this nowadays, for no writer or 
story rouses the same interest. Forster also told us 
a good deal about Carlyle, whose proof-sheets, from 
the abundant corrections, cost three or four times 
what the original ' setting ' did." Thus the diary. 

Once, on a Sunday in Dublin, I brought Forster 
to the cathedral in Marlborough Street to hear the 
High Mass, at which Cardinal Cullen officiated. He 
sat it out very patiently, and I remember on coming 
out drew a deep sigh, or gasp, with the remark, 
" Well, I suppose it's all right." 

Forster, whatever might be said of his sire's 
calling, was at least of a good old Newcastle border 
stock of fine " grit " and sturdily independent. He 



JOHN FORSTER. 69 

was proud of his stock, and he has often lamented, 
not merely in print, but to myself, how people would 
confound him with mere Fosters. " Now we," he 
would say vehemently, " are Forsters with an r" 
When he became acquainted with a person nearly 
connected with myself, he was immensely pleased to 
find that she was a Foster ; and, as she was of rank, 
it was amusing to find him not quite so eager to 
repudiate the Foster (without the r). " We are all 
the same, my dear friend. All Forresters, abbreviated 
as Forster or Foster, all one ; the same crest." The 
lady had some fragments of a fine old crimson Derby 
service, plates with the Foster escutcheon, and he was 
immensely gratified when she presented him with one. 

Frederick Locker was certainly one of the 
most agreeable and most interesting and most amiable 
beings that could be imagined. His face had a sort 
of Quixote quaintness, so had his talk, while his 
humour had a pleasant flavour. He lived at his 
place in the country, but I always looked forward — 
and now look back, alas ! — to the many pleasant talks 
we would have together, each more than an hour 
long, on the occasion of these rare visits. All his 
stories were delightful, all his tastes elegant. His 
knowledge of books was profound and truly refined. 
His taste was most fastidious. Towards the close of 
his career he prepared a catalogue of his choice 
library, which showed to the world at once how 
elegant was his taste and knowledge. At once it 



70 JOHN FORSTER. 

became recherche. A few copies at a guinea were for 
sale, with a view to let the public know something of 
his treasures, but it is now at a fancy price. Once 
when I was in a dealer's shop " haggling " over an " old 
play," for which I think two guineas was asked, and 
which seemed to me a monstrous price, Locker came 
in quietly, and took the book up, which was the inter- 
lude of Jacke Drum. I told him of the price — " Take 
it, I advise you, he said, it is very cheap. I assure 
you I gave a vast deal more for my copy." I took 
it, and I believe at this moment I could get for my 
copy ten times that sum, in fact, there has not been 
a copy in the market. This interesting man was, I 
fancy, happy in both his marriages ; the first bring- 
ing him rank and connection, the second lands and 
wealth. I bring him in here because he associated 
with Forster in one of his most grotesque moods. To 
Forster, however, this agreeable spirit was taboo. He 
had offended the great man, and as it had a ludicrous 
cast, and was, besides, truly Forsterian, I may here 
recur to it. Forster, as I have stated, had been left 
by Landor, the copyright of his now value unsale- 
able writings, and he was more pleased at the in- 
tended compliment than gratified by the legacy itself. 
My friend Locker, whose Lyra was well known, had 
thoughtlessly inserted in a new edition one, or some, 
of Landor's short pieces, and went his way. One day 
Forster discovered " the outrage," wrote tremendous 
letters, threatened law, and, I believe, obtained some 
satisfaction for the trespasses. But during the alter- 



JOHN FORSTER. 71 

cation he found that a copy had been presented to 
the Athenaeum Club library, and it bore the usual 
inscription and Minerva's head of the Club. Forster, 
sans f agon, put the book in his pocket and took it away 
home, CDTTfrscated it in fact. There was a great hubbub. 
The committee met, determined that their property 
had been taken away, and demanded that it should 
be brought back. Forster flatly refused ; defied the 
Club to do its worst. Secretary, solicitors, and every 
means were used to bring him to reason. It actually 
ended in his retaining the book, the Club shrinking 
from entering into public contest with so redoubtable 
an antagonist. 

Forster was sumptuous in his tastes ; always liking 
to have the best. When he wanted a thing considera- 
tions of the expense would not stand in the way. He 
was an admirable judge of a picture, and could in a few 
well-chosen words point out its merits. When he 
heard Lord Lytton was going to India, he gave Millais 
a commi^sf6it"To paint a portrait of the new Viceroy. 
Millais used good humouredly to relate the lofty 
condescending style in which it was announced. " It 
gives me, I assure you, great pleasure to learn that 
you are so advancing in your profession. I think 
highly of your abilities and shall be glad to encourage 
them;" or something to that effect. Millais at this 
time was at the very top of his profession, as indeed 
Forster knew well, but the state and grandeur of 
the subject, and his position in expending so large a 
sum — I suppose a thousand guineas, for it was a full 



72 JOHN FORSTER. 

length — lifted my old friend into one of his dreams. 
The portrait was a richly-coloured and effective one, 
giving the staring owl-like eyes of the poet-diploma- 
tist. Another of Forster's purchases was Maclise's 
huge picture of Caxton showing his first printed book 
to the King. 

It was a treat and an education to go round a 
picture gallery with him, so excellent and to the 
point were his criticisms. He seized on the essential 
merit of each. I remember going with him to see 
the collected works of his old friend Leslie, R.A., 
when he frankly confessed his disappointment at the 
general thinness of the colour and style, brought out 
conspicuously when the works were all gathered 
together : this was the effect, with a certain chalki- 
ness. At the Dublin Exhibition he was greatly struck 
by a little cabinet picture by an Anglo-German artist, 
one Webb, and was eager to secure it, though he 
objected to the price. However, on the morning of 
his departure the secretary drove up on an outside 
car to announce that the artist would take fifty 
pounds, which Forster gave. This was " The Chess- 
players," which now hangs at South Kensington. 

He had deep feeling and hesitation even as to 
putting anything into print without due pause and 
preparation. Print had not then become what it is 
now, with the telephone, type-writing, and other 
aids, a mere expression of conversation and of 
whatever floating ideas are passing through the 
mind. Mr. Purcell's wholesale exhibition of Cardinal 



JOHN FORSTER. 73 

Manning's inmost thoughts and feelings would have 
shocked him inexpressibly. I was present when a 
young fellow, to whom he had given some papers, 
brought him the proofs in which the whole was 
printed off without revision or restraint. He gave 
him a severe rebuke. " Sir, you seem to have no idea 
of the sacredness of the Press ; you pitch in everything, 
as if into a bucket. Such carelessness is inexcus- 
able." Among them was a letter from Colburn, 
the former husband of his wife. " I am perfectly 
astounded at you ! Have you not the tact to see 
that such a thing as that should not appear ? " And 
he drew his pen indignantly across it. That was a 
good lesson for the youth. In such matters, however, 
he did not spare friend or stranger. 

It is curious, considering how sturdy a pattern of 
Englishman was Forster, that all his oldest friends 
were Irishmen, such as Maclise, Emerson Tennant, 
Whiteside, Macready, Ouain, Foley, Mulready, and 
many more. For all these he had almost an affec- 
tion, and he cherished their old and early intimacy. 
He liked especially the good-natured impulsive type 
of the Goldy pattern ; for such he had interest and 
sympathy. As a young man, when studying for the 
Bar, he had been in Chitty's office, where he had 
for companions Whiteside and Tennant, afterwards 
Sir Emerson. Whiteside became the brilliant 
parliamentary orator and Chief Justice ; Tennant 
a baronet and Governor of Ceylon ; and Forster 
himself the distinguished writer and critic, the friend 



74 JOHN FORSTER. 

and biographer of Dickens. It was a remarkable 
trio certainly. Chitty, the veteran conveyancer, his 
old master, he never Torgot, and was always delighted 
to have him to dinner, to do him honour in every 
way. His son, the judge, was a favourite protege, and 
became his executor. He had a warm regard for Sir 
Richard Quain, who was beside Lord Beaconsfield in 
extremis, who literally knew everyone that ought to 
be known, and who would visit a comparatively 
humble patient with equal interest. Quain was 
thoroughly good-natured, ever friendly and even 
affectionate. Forster's belief in him was as that in 
a fetish. 

The faithful Quain was w r ith his friend to the last 
moment. Poor Forster was being gradually over- 
powered by the rising bronchial humours with which, 
as he grew weaker, he could not struggle with or 
baffle. It was then that Quain, bending over, procured 
him a short reprieve and relief in his agony, putting 
his fingers down his throat and clearing away the 
impeding masses. 

Sir Richard was not only physician-in-ordinary, but 
the warm and devoted friend, official consultant, as he 
was of the whole coterie. For a long course of years 
he had charge of his friend's health, if health it could 
be called where all was disease and misery ; and it 
was his fate to see him affectionately through the 
great crisis at the last. There was a deal of this 
affection in Quain ; he was eminently good-natured ; 
good true-hearted Quain ! Many a poor priest of his 



JOHN FORSTER. 75 

country has been to him, and from them he would 
never take, though not of his faith. Ouain was 
indeed the literary man's physician ; more so than 
Sir Andrew Clarke, who was presumed to hold the 
post by letters patent. For Clarke was presumed to 
know and cure the literary ailments ; but Ouain was 
the genial guide, philosopher and friend, always one 
of themselves, and indeed a literateur himself. Who 
will forget his quaint little figure, shrewd face, the 
native accent, never lost ; and his " Ah me dear 
fellow, shure what can I do?" His red-wheeled 
carriage, generally well horsed, was familiar to us all, 
and recognisable. How he maintained this equip- 
age, for we are told what " makes a mare to go," it 
was hard to conceive, for the generous man would 
positively refuse to take fees from his more intimate 
friends, at least of the literary class. With me, a 
very old friend and patient, there was a perpetual 
battle. He set his face against the two guinea fee, 
but humorously held out for his strict guinea, and 
would not bate the shilling. I have known him when 
a client presented two sovereigns empty his pockets 
of silver and scrupulously return nineteen shillings. 
And what an adviser he was ! What confidence he 
imparted ! The moment he bade you sit down and 
" tell him all about it " you felt secure. 

It was always delightful to meet him. He had his 
moments of gloom, like most of his countrymen, for 
he never lost his native " hall mark," and retained to 
the last that sort of wheedling tone which is common 



76 JOHN FORSTER. 

in the South of Ireland. Yet he had none of that 
good-natured insincerity, to which a particular class 
of Irish are given. He was thoroughly sincere and 
genuine, and ready to support his words by deeds. 
His humour was racy. As when the Prince of Wales 
was sympathising with him on a false report of his 
death, adding, good naturedly, " I really was afraid, 
Dr. Quain, that we had lost you, and was thinking of 
sending a wreath." " Well, Sir," said the medico, 
" recollect that you are now committed to the wreath." 
I did not note, however, that when the event at last 
took place the wreath was sent. I always fancied that 
he was a disappointed man, and that he felt that his 
high position had not been suitably recognised ; or at 
least that the recognition had been delayed. The 
baronetcy came late. But what he had set his heart 
upon, and claimed as his due, was the Presidency of 
the College of Physicians. This he was always near 
attaining, but men like Sir Andrew Clarke were pre- 
ferred to him. I was a special friend for many years, 
and have had many a favoured " lift " in his carriage 
when we were going the same way. I was glad to 
be allowed to dedicate to him some volumes of 
personal memoirs. The last time I met this genial 
and amiable man was at the table of a well-known 
law lord, whom he astonished considerably by ad- 
dressing me across the table all through dinner by 
my christian name. He was at the time seriously ill, 
in his last illness in fact, when, as he said, he had 
been " tortured to death by their operations." He had 



JOHN FORSTER. 77 

good taste in art, was fond of the French school of 
engraving, and was the friend and counsellor of many 
an artist. He was of the old Dickens school, of the 
coterie that included Maclise, Jerrold and the rest. 

Once, when he and his family were staying close 
to Ipswich, I asked him to order me a photograph of 
the Great White Horse Inn, noted as the scene of 
Mr. Pickwick's adventure, and to my pleasure and 
astonishment found that he had commissioned an 
artist to prepare a whole series of large photographs 
depicting the old inn, both without and within, and 
from every point of view. In this handsome way 
he would oblige his friends. He was in immense 
demand as a cheerful diner out. 

I was amused by a cynical appreciation of a 
friend and patient of his, uttered shortly after his 
death. We had met and were lamenting his loss. 
" Nothing, nobody can fill his place," he said. — " It is 
sad to lose such a friend." — " Indeed it is," said my 
companion, " I don't know what I shall do. No one 
else ever understood my constitution. I really don't 
know whom I am to go to now" — and he went his 
way in a pettish mood, as though his physician had 
rather shabbily deserted him. Alas, is there not 
much of this when one of these pleasant " specialists " 
departs ? 

His faithful devotion to his old friend Forster 
during that long illness was unflagging, He could 
not cure, but he did all that was possible by his 
unwearying attention to alleviate. How often have 



78 JOHN FORSTER. 

I found the red chariot waiting at the door, or when I 
was sitting with him would the door open and the 
grave manservant announce " Sir Rich-hard QUAIN." 
His talk, gossip, news, was part of the alleviation. 

After all that must have been an almost joyous 
moment that brought poor Forster his release from 
those awful and intolerable days and nights of 
agony, borne with a fortitude of which the world had 
no conception. Eternal frightful spasms of coughing 
day and night, together with other maladies of the 
most serious kind. And yet, on the slightest respite, 
this man of wonderful fortitude would turn gay and 
festive, recover his spirits, and look forward to some 
enjoyment, a dinner it might be, where he was the 
old Forster once more, smiling enticingly on his 
favourite ladies, and unflinchingly prepared to go 
back to the night of horrors that awaited him ! 

Mrs. Forster, as her friends knew well, was one of 
the sweetest women " under the sun," a sweetness 
brought out by contrast with the obstreperous ways 
of her tempestuous mate. Often when something 
went wrong, rather did not go with the almost ideal 
smoothness at one of his many banquets (and there 
never was a more generously hospitable man), it was 
piteous to see her trying to smooth away the incident 
with the certainty of inflaming the dictator, and 
turning his wrath upon herself. 

She knew well that not he, but his malady, was 
accountable. She believed from her heart in the 
duality of Forster. There was a hapless page boy 



JOHN FORSTER. 79 

whose very presence and assumed stupidity used to 
inflame his master to perfect Bersaker fits of rage. 
The scenes were exquisitely ludicrous, if painful ; the 
contrast between the giant and the object of his 
wrath, scared out of his life with terror, was absolutely 
diverting. Thus the host would murmur " Biscuits ! " 
which was not heard or not heeded ; then louder and 
more sharply, " Biscuits ! " then a roar that made all 
start, " BIScuits ! ! " Poor Mrs. Forster's agitation was 
sad to see, and between her and the butler the luckless 
lad was somehow got from the room. This attendant 
was an admirable comedy character, and in his way 
a typical servant, stolid and reserved. No one could 
have been so portentously sagacious as he looked. It 
was admirable to see his unruffled calm during his 
master's outbursts when something had gone wrong 
during the dinner. No violence could betray him 
into anything but the most placid and correct replies. 
There was something fine and pathetic in this, for it 
showed that he also recognised that it was not his 
true master that was thus raging. I recall talking with 
him shortly after his master's death. After paying 
his character a fine tribute he spoke of his illness. 
" You see, sir, 1 ' he said at last, " what was at the 
bottom of it all was he 'ad no stammer, no staminer — 
NO STAMINER, sir." And he repeated the word many 
times with enjoyment. I have no doubt he picked it 
up at Forster's table and it had struck him as a good 
effective English word, spelled as he pronounced it. 
Such was John Forster. 



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